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This page aims to respond to some common concerns parents of young children have about their
child’s body image and eating patterns.
child’s body image and eating patterns.
what do i do if i'm worried about my child's weight?
If you are concerned that your child may not be at their most healthy weight, there are number of things you can do:
• Promote self-confidence in your child and avoid teasing
them. Follow the tips mentioned earlier in the child
self-esteem and teasing pages.
• If your child is overweight, think about how you can
increase healthy eating and physical activity for your whole family, without focusing on weight and appearance. It’s
important to do this as a family because one child will find
it difficult to eat or exercise differently from the rest of
• Don’t encourage your child to go on a diet. Dieting is
dangerous for children, they may feel blamed for their
weight, and be at an increased risk of obesity and
• Think about your own eating and physical activity habits
and how this may be influencing your child. Your child will
learn from you and is likely to copy you.
• Seek professional help from your family doctor, a dietitian,
or refer to the list of other support contacts.
what do i do if i detect a problem with my child's body image?
If you think your child is becoming increasingly unhappy with their body, it’s important to act as early as possible. You may do this by:
• Talking with your child about their feelings and thoughts,
and listening to what they have to say. Avoid being
judgemental or being dismissive of their feelings. You may
think they are wonderful and beautiful but it’s how they
feel about themselves that is important. Let them know
you love them and are there to help them.
• If you feel that your family environment is a positive one,
think about your child’s other environments that may be
influencing them. It may be important to talk to your
child’s teacher or staff from their child care centre to find
out whether your child is being teased by other children,
or if someone else is being teased in their class.
• You may also wish to speak to your family doctor,
school counsellor, Maternal and Child Health nurse, or
paediatrician, or seek support from a mental health
professional, such as a psychologist, who can provide both
you and your child with further strategies to support you
to promote your child’s body confidence.
how do i identify a problem with my child's body image?
It can be difficult to identify if your child is experiencing problems with their body image because at this early age your child is developing their attitudes, and it can be hard for them to express their concerns. But sometimes children may make you aware of their body dissatisfaction by the way they talk about their body. For example, they may put themselves down or make negative comments, such as "I’m fat", "I’m ugly", or "I’m hopeless".
It’s common for children to repeat comments that they have heard others say. It’s important to talk to your child when they make self-critical comments to find out what they really mean, how they feel, or where they heard that language. "I’m fat" might actually mean "I don’t feel good about myself".
what if my child is a fussy eater?
It’s a common phase in early childhood for children to refuse to eat certain foods or to become fussy or picky with their meals. The purpose of Confident Body Confident Child is not to overcome fussy eating, but rather to assist you in promoting an environment for your child to develop positive body image and healthy eating patterns. We acknowledge, however, that fussy eating can be difficult to manage and may influence your child’s relationship with food. You may find the following helpful to deal with fussy eating:
• As difficult as it is, try to remain positive and supportive
when your child is trying new foods.
• Try to avoid negotiating with, or threatening your child if
they are refusing food, as food may become a source of
• Research suggests that children may need to see, smell,
watch, touch, or taste unfamiliar foods 15, 20, or even
more times, before they learn to like it.
• Even after your child learns to like a food, they won’t
necessarily eat it every time it’s offered, so try to be
patient and supportive.
• You may need to try to re-introduce previously refused
food as your child gets older, as their tastebuds are likely
• You may also wish to speak to your Maternal and Child
Health nurse or a dietitian who can provide you with
further strategies to overcome fussy eating, or refer to
the list of other support contacts.
• See the “Fun not Fuss with Food” fact sheets online