Students create their own ideas of themselves long before they reach their tweens. Clinical psychologist Lyndsay Elliot says children are creating a body image as young as 8 or 9. “We’re seeing a whole influx of kids being diagnosed with eating disorders, both boys and girls. Sometimes with boys, issues are minimized. But boys have issues, too, affecting them equally,” Elliott says.
Students create their body image through a collection of input from their environment. They first establish their ideal body type through peer input, TV, magazines, websites, and in video games and movies. They then compare themselves to these ideals through input that they receive from friends, teachers, family members and you.
Creating an environment conducive to a positive body image for your students can be very difficult. Luckily, there are many ways in which you can ensure that your student grows up with a healthy body image, confidence and good eating habits.
The first step is to focus on your student’s positive attributes like kindness, compassion, and humor, rather than the physical. This will lead to a positive self-image which is a strong platform from which to build a good body image.
Repeat performance: Get your student to repeat your input and list their positive attributes every day. This is especially important when your child already has a negative body image. Compliment them every day and get them to repeat it back to you. Affirming your positive view of them will help to make the switch in their minds.
Standing tall: Rob Williams, a kinesiologist and posture specialist, claims that self-image improves with proper posture. Posture enhances how your student is perceived by peers and makes them feel and look confident.
Praise points: Constructive criticism has its place, but the most effective arrow in your quiver is always praise. Be specific in your compliments. Make sure that you compliment your child on something every day. Be sincere and tell them exactly what they did or a virtue that they have that is appealing. This will go a long way to bolstering their confidence.
Be realistic: Setting exercise or healthy eating bars too high for students will lead to failure and will only reinforce the negative image they have of themselves. If you are trying to get your student to improve their exercise regimen or eating habits (essential for good body image) then use praise and positive reinforcement. Focus on any improvement, no matter how small. Encourage your student to follow their interests and be generous with rewards when any improvement becomes evident.
A positive self and body image will mean that your student is happy and well adjusted. It’s worth the effort, but you need to remember that you are not the only influence on your student. If you are doing all you can, ensure that peers and the media are not undoing all your hard work.