Q1. Do I play any role in conditioning of my child with respect to body image?

A1. YES. As parents we are the first ones to shape our child’s reality. Consider a young child as an audience and Parents and the home environment is like a film constantly screening. We consciously and unconsciously in-take all the information shown to us every moment. So, if not directly exposing our child to body image inducing situations, our generational conditioning still does the work. Body image has a lot to do with how a person sees and feels about oneself when they look in the mirror. (compare it to how we feel in our home, our body is like our home as well). So, a basic example of how as a parent we play role is how we talk about food, weight and clothes with our family members.  Some basic examples include:

  • seeing a parent dressing up for an event and how their partner responds on how they look?
  • If a child’s complexion is compared with their sibling’s complexion.
  • And the most disturbing trend going on that can reinforce this issue is “baby modelling”
  • Seeing the diet culture promoted products and supplements at home and associating with the advertisements (images and dialogues) promoting them? (e.g.: if a child sees fair and lovely cream at home and understands what the add is showing, a belief of “fairer is beautiful” may plant it’s seed automatically.)

These are few instances where even parents are not aware and it’s not always their fault or in their control. But, keeping a check on what child is learning from surroundings, by talking to them, helps.

Q2. How should I talk to my child about their body and at what age I should have this talk?

For a child, a learning induced from what is seen is quicker and long lasting in comparison to what they are told. (for example, holding, hugging and kissing a child will make them feel more secure, comforted and loved by a parent even before they would understand a meaning of I Love You.)

Similarly, it will become easier as a task if before talking to their child about their body, parents may create an environment for the same, may be, by watching educative videos together, by parents talking with each other around their child. Let the child grasp these concepts unknowingly.

Gradually, sit with your child to have THE TALK. You may begin by asking questions to see if and what your child’s preconceived notions are. Ask questions like –

What do you think the colour of skin is? (and show him/her images of faces with different skin tones, you may show him the shade card of skin tones, sit with your child and make drawings of emoticons and faces and fill it with different tones of brown colours, or fill with different shades of brown paper like a collage work as well). Make a rainbow of different skin colours.

Similarly, do for body shapes/figures.

Ask your child if he thinks which colour face looks most pretty and why he/she thinks so? Then you may positively modify their beliefs by correcting à One cannot compare the outer appearances just on basis of the looks.

Also, you may teach them affirmations or write these affirmations with them as an art/craft activity and paste it on the wall for a few days.

  • I love all my body parts equally. (E.g.: I love my stomach and thighs as much as I love my face)
  • I love how I see my face.
  • I accept my body the way I see it in mirror
  • My arms give good hugs
  • My body is just right. I love its shape and size.
  • All my body parts help me play
  • My hair all over protects my body.
  • All skin colours are BEAUTIFUL
  • I will love my body’s colour and shape even if they change.
  • I am not the labels I have worn since my childhood.

The perfect age to talk to your child about this is BEFORE PUBERTY. That’s when their body will begin to grow. They experience more hair growth or may see their friends increasing height drastically. This is when we teach them to not compare on how they look. They may see changes in the skin (pimples, oil, etc)

Q3. How can I know if my child is having body image issues? Are there any signs I should look out for?

A3. It will be well expressed in their dialogues and behaviours. Observe the patterns.

Dialogues Behaviours
·        Personalisation à My body is the reason this happened.

·        Black and White Thinking à Without the right body I will never be loved.

·        Over generalisation à Everything is bad, because my body looks bad.

·        Catastrophising à No one likes me because I am ugly

·        Jumping to conclusion à They think I’m too ugly to be here.


·        Viewing multiple times in mirror

·        Getting influenced by diet cultures.

·        Fat stereotyping for self or others (e.g.: No one will like me if I become fat. No one likes him, he is so fat)

·        Unloved relationship with food (doesn’t like to eat much)

·        Clicking multiple pictures or selfies is pass time or when alone.

·        Sudden changes in their way of clothing.

·        Avoid going out with friends.



Q4. I think my child has body image issues? What now?

The first step is to have the talk and see “what and how they think” about the issue because the types of language we use in relation to our bodies is super important as it impacts on how we feel and what we do as a result from that feeling. Exploring the unhelpful thinking styles is the immediate step that needs to be taken. Try to work on the process of gaining insight and re-educate them about this.

Education would involve factual thoughts like

  • I will exercise to be fit and not to be slim
  • I have to lose weight to become healthy and not thin.
  • Food is much more than calories.
  • All thin/fair people are NOT always happy
  • All fat people are NOT unhealthy.
  • I am obviously much more than my appearance.
  • Looks don’t decide my worth.
  • Weight change is a normal part of human experience.
  • Others don’t get to decide what colour my skin should be.
  • My body is not a trend. I can dress the way I like.
  • Food is to be consumed in proportion not portion.
  • I will do intuitive eating instead of emotional eating. (e.g.: I will eat out of my hunger and needs and not out of my fear or guilt.)

Emotional venting à express how they feel via drawing/journaling/Affirmations

Listen to Body positive podcasts and meditations.

Seek professional help from a psychologist or a counsellor.

Q5. My child is all grown up now. It is too late to change their perspective with respect to their body?

A.5.  No, this is rather a best time to work on the issues as with age the child may have enough education and exposure of societal thinking to gain awareness and do the work.  It’s never too late to bring any positive change in oneself. But we need to always remember that developing a change in any perspective is a really slow process. Progress will be curvy and not linear. We can always choose to think differently, once we gain insight. Always remember that in this process, we are not just fighting against older version of oneself but also against a thousand-year-old generational conditioning of body shaming. So, if at any age our unhelpful old perspectives and thinking styles are not letting us peacefully love our self, it needs to be changed and it’s never too late. In fact, the process of loving and accepting one-self as it is, is one of the most brave and empowering things to do.

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