Child psychologists would console any parent in this predicament by focusing on the fact that their child chose to share this concern with them. You now have the opportunity to bolster their self esteem and calm any misplaced anxiety.

Studies have found that children as young as 5 are thinking negatively about their bodies and 80% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat, so your child is sadly not alone with their self-criticism. We’ve gathered together expert advice to help worried parents unpick the issue and take the next steps towards helping your child think differently.

Use conversation starters
Hearing your child criticize themselves can come as a shock, but a recommended next step is to open up a conversation on the topic as soon as possible. A good conversation starter when children question themselves is to ask “why do you think that?” Discovering the root cause can be a helpful way to resolve their negative thinking fast. For example, if a bully has insulted your child in this way you can enlist the help of your child’s school. Ask them to tackle the bullying to reduce the risk of any more name-calling.

Unhealthy comparison
If senseless bullying is ruled out perhaps your child is comparing themselves to images on social media or television. Now is the time to emphasize the importance of healthy eating habits and healthy lifestyle activities rather than appearances.

Stay body positive
Parents should be acutely aware that their children model themselves on the behaviour of their caregivers. Are you sure your child hasn’t heard you scolding yourself for not fitting into your clothes (“I’m too fat for my jeans”), gaining a few extra pounds (“All those chips have made me fat”) or commenting on the appearance of a stranger (“she has gained weight”).

Role models
If you concerned that your child is overly body conscious and focused on appearances you could try bringing some different influences into the home. Exposure to more people who are known for their accomplishments rather than their appearance can help broaden your child’s world view, and will hopefully help them celebrate their own unique qualities (physical or otherwise). The ‘Little People, Big Dreams’ series of picture books contains a wealth of inspiration for children, illuminating the lives of people including Stephen Hawking, Emmeline Pankhurst and Rosa Parks.

Support for older children dealing with body image issues can be found at the Young Minds website, her – https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/feelings-and-symptoms/body-image/

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