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
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.