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Generational Body Image Difficulties

Child looking in the mirror putting on lipstick

The only place Body Image Difficulties do not exist are within a baby’s head; although some people are more biologically vulnerable to Body Image disorders, the environment we grow up in plays a huge role in shaping the relationship we have with our body.  Sadly, body image issues can get passed down generations like hot potatoes, children are like sponges and tend to absorb what they see and hear as opposed to what they are told.

Some of the environmental factors that can negatively impact children’s relationship with their own body are:

• Open access to social media that is not age appropriate; influencers are often

body image and food focussed

• Parents and significant others continually modelling body dissatisfaction.

• Parents and significant others actively fetishising thinness.

• Being continually exposed to dieting.

• Comparing a child’s body to another child’s body.

• Projecting perfectionistic ideals onto a child’s appearance.

• Criticising the appearance of others in front of a child.

• Not allowing a child to have body autonomy.

• Criticising a child’s clothes choice.

• Demonstrating a disproportionate amount of pleasure and approval when the

child is dressed - “neatly” or “prettily.”

We can’t control how the wider media glorifies certain body shapes but we can break trans-generational patterns of poor body image.  

What you can do to help:

• Modelling self acceptance and compassion.

• Highlighting the personal qualities you like in your child.

• Talking about well-being holistically.

• Normalising body imperfection.

• Embracing difference in others and demonstrating understanding.

• Helping your child recognise their strengths. E.g: kindness, art, sense of humour,

spontaneity, sports…

• Modelling problem solving. Body Image issues can arise because we believe that

body modification can solve all our problems.

 “It’s never going to be easy changing inherited patterns of thinking and behaving, especially when they’re compounded by so many external sources but the pay off is knowing that we’re creating a new path for the children in our lives and our children’s, children, and our children’s, children’s children!”


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