Children and Body Image
FEBRUARY 25, 2021
by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb
Parents and caregivers have the privilege and opportunity to explain to their children that God made their bodies and this is foundational for their self-image.
In a society overflowing with negative body-image messages, children’s body-image is an urgent issue. Children need to know God made their bodies and made them special.
The message children need to hear is this: “God made you in his image. Every part of your body is good because God made every part and called them all good.”
We get to encourage children to appreciate their bodies and come alongside them to address the questions and shame regarding them. This is important because research regarding children and body issues are staggering and sad. Children are dealing with body-image distortion at an early age. Many young children are dieting or developing dangerous eating habits. Additionally, many trends in our culture lead to hypersexualizing of children.
Research shows that elementary school age is when children are at risk of developing a poor body-image. By helping to improve their body-image at this stage and making them more aware of messages the media is putting out, parents and caregivers can equip them better to be confident about their bodies.
Parents are one of the most powerful influences in children’s lives regarding their body-image. Parents and caregivers can start the conversation now about the practical body-image implications of being made in God’s image.
Encouraging Children to Have a Healthy Body Image
Encourage children not to compare themselves to their peers. Instead, help them give thanks to God for the gifts he has given to them, and ask God to show them how they can become more like him today.
If your child has a physical impairment, remind him or her it does not negate your child’s inherent worth as God’s image bearer, not does it diminish the other qualities God has blessed your child with.
Help victims of bullying boost confidence by focusing on how much they’re worth because they are made in the image of God and by reminding them of the positive attributes God has given to them. Also discuss strategies for how they can respond to bullying the next time it occurs, and seek out additional resources on bullying to help you support your children.
Encourage your children to do the things they love that are good. Spending time on worthwhile activities boosts confidence and builds healthy friendships.
With your children, make a list of new things they want to try, learn, or tackle. Learning how to use their bodies in new ways can give them a greater appreciation for its capabilities and remind them that God gave them their bodies to be used to do good things.
Set a positive example by not criticizing other people’s bodies. If children see their parents judging appearances, then they will be much more likely to do the same to others and themselves.
If you have insecurities about your appearance, don’t make offhand, critical comments about those perceived flaws around your children. Instead, intentionally talk with your children about how God has helped you learn to see your body more like the way he sees it, even though you still forget to see your body that way sometimes.