• Carolina Lopes


Sunny has dinner with her parents every night. For years she had watched her mom measuring every food that she puts on her plate and then leaving the table when Sunny and her dad ate dessert “I don’t want to become fat,” her mom would say “I’m on a diet.” Sunny is 8 years old now, one day she gets home from school and looks at herself in the mirror and notices that the shirt she’s wearing makes her belly look more voluminous than her chest and convinces herself that she should start “dieting” like her mommy so that her parents won’t think that she’s fat.

Advertising and marketing usually takes the blame when it comes to negative self-esteem and body image issues in girls. But what many don’t realize is that advertising is only the tip of the iceberg. Parents are living examples for kids. Children are observant and learn most things from their parents - even if they aren’t taught intentionally. The environment created at home plays a big role in determining how much a girl will be impacted by the negative body messages from the media.

Here are some things that you, as a parent should watch out for:

Constant Dieting

Sunny is just one girl of many that became victims of the diet industry and just like the other girls, Sunny was first exposed to the idea of dieting at home. Parents teach their kids things that they don’t really intend to. It’s not only dieting - if you want your child to have positive attitudes and believes towards their bodies and appearance when they grow up, you should do the same to yourself.

“Try to avoid making any negative judgements and comments about your own body,” said Amy Slater, an associate professor at the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the west of England, Bristol. For example, quit telling yourself “I’m so fat” or “I don’t have the ‘right’ body to wear X”.

“_____? Oh, your chubby friend?”

Children learn how they should think and feel about their own bodies from listening to adults around them. If they hear adults disparaging other people’s bodies, they learn to apply that same sort of criticism to themselves when they look in the mirror. Because of that, parents should be mindful when talking about weight and body size with and in front of children.

You are so pretty… and also smart, funny, adventurous, clever, dedicated…

Remind your kid of the importance of inner beauty and compliment her on other characteristics rather than her looks. Although there’s nothing wrong on telling your daughter how beautiful she is, if that’s all she hears than she will learn that appearance is what’s important and that she should always be striving towards looking attractive.

Do not pinch her belly or other body parts

...specially when it’s accompanied by “you’re gaining some weight hum?” It might seem like an innocent act at first but sometimes this can really stick with a girl regardless of her age. Body change is normal but pointing out that your daughter is gaining weight is usually not the healthiest thing to do to her. If she’s becoming overweight (rather than just putting on some healthy weight), try to have a conversation with her to explore things that might have contributed to her weight gain that could be a bigger concern. For example, your daughter loves to run around or play some sport with her friends but maybe lately she hasn’t done that as much because something happened in her friend group and that’s why she’s putting on some extra weight. If her weight gain becomes worrisome, don’t point it out to her even if it’s on a playful way, try to talk with her first and understand and consult a professional.