MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Heading back-to-school, parents have a long list of things to think about, but their child’s body image isn’t something most have on that list.
Kids and teens’ bodies change a lot in those years and their responses can vary.
Amy Gross, a psychologist with the pediatric weight management program at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital, said kids are getting a lot of messages about their body. They get them from their peers, their parents, the media.
Kids and teens compare themselves and how their bodies are changing to those ideals. That’s where concern may come in.
“The best way parents can help is to model a healthy body image. Parents want to talk about their own bodies positively and not focusing on the parts on the body they don’t appreciate,” she said. “They want to model healthy behaviors, healthy diets and healthy activities. Also, comment on their child’s strengths. Give them positive feedback on what they do well.”
Here are some red flags that parents should look for:
1. Drastic changes in child’s behavior in either direction. Are they not eating or at least being extra picky? Or maybe they are going the other direction and overeating?
2. The way they dress is changing. Are they covering body and trying to be hidden? Or are they dressing much more revealing in the past?
3. Finally, listen for derogatory comments they make about themselves, especially if they do it repeatedly.
Gross said it’s healthy for kids and teens to understand that they are a well-rounded person and that it’s not just about their looks.
If you’re concerned about your child, a pediatric psychologist WCCO spoke with says you should contact your pediatrician. They will do an evaluation. From there, they may refer you to a specialist.