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Body Image in Young Children

 

“Mom, why am I so fat?,” wailed my nine year old after a basketball practice.

Wet trails covered red cheeks, as sobs ricocheted around our minivan. After a few minutes of crying, we finally unearthed that the coach had told the team they were out of shape. Several of the teammates took this to mean that they were fat and needed to watch what they eat. For the next few weeks the local third grade class experienced a sudden burst of dieting and extra sprinting at recess.

What surprised us was the fact that our child is by no means fat- she is lucky to weigh even 60 pounds after a large meal! This event was definitely an eye opener. Dealing with an elementary age child that is concerned about body image was a shock, but come to find out, our family is not alone. Today’s kids are starting to develop these issues earlier and earlier these days.

Researchers are noticing that in the 6 to 8 year old demographic, one-third of male and more than half of the female children believe that they are heavier than their ideal weights. To drive this common misconception home, one out of every four 7 year olds are engaging in some form of dieting behaviors. Most of these children should be worried about learning to read, not if they have the right body mass index.

It’s not only our youngest children discovering body image issues. This problem is very common among our kids, tweens, and teens which ultimately exposes them to a variety of health and emotional concerns. They feel different, rejected by other children and not loved sometimes. It is concerning because this type of situations can develop into low self esteem and make them lose confidence in themselves. Both schools and parents need to be very attentive and not just ignore reality.

Body image issues are serious issues affecting a lot of our children. It could be that they do not like a part of their body or even just a small pimple on their face is a big deal.  As parents, the loving thing to do is be involved and aware of how our children are feeling. We need to be alert, monitor their technology, know how they are behaving on social media and with other children around them, and lend a shoulder to cry on. Raising children is not a game for the faint of heart, but our families can win if we work together and communicate as a team.

Children and Teen's Health

Amy Williams is a journalist and former social worker, specializing in teen behavioral health. She believes that, in our digital age, it's time for parents and educators to make sure parents and students alike are educated about technology and social media use, hoping to inform others through her writing.