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How to Foster Healthy Body Image in Your Child

Photo credit: Odua Images /

How to Foster Healthy Body Image in Your Child

Setting up good habits for life

Published on 27 November, 2023

Photo credit: Odua Images /

Focus Singapore


Helping families thrive

Primary years (7-9)

Instill Healthy Habits 

For younger children, we serve as the primary influencers through our actions and attitudes.  

At this stage, it’s all about integrating healthy eating and regular physical activity into our family life. This not only helps our children establish beneficial habits but also sends a powerful message about the value placed on our overall well-being.  

We should also steer clear of fad diets and crash programmes, while keeping open conversations about the uniqueness of our body, no matter what size and shape we are.

Tween years (10-12)

Use Language Mindfully 

As we parent our young teens, we must be vigilant about the language we use. Simple comments can have a profound impact on a budding teenager’s self-perception.  

Rather than focusing on appearance, we can shift the emphasis towards character traits and qualities such as resilience, kindness and helpfulness.   

Avoid Sibling or Relative Comparisons  

Each child is unique, and comparisons among siblings or relatives can be detrimental to their self-esteem.  

We should acknowledge and celebrate our children’s individual strengths and qualities. Wherever possible, emphasise that differences in appearance are natural and do not determine a person’s worth.  

By focusing on each child’s unique strengths and gifts, we foster an environment where siblings can support and uplift each other rather than compete based on physical or intellectual attributes.  

Refrain from Weight-Related Comments 

Negative comments about weight, even if well-intentioned, can contribute to low self-esteem and body image issues. Instead of focusing on appearance, keep family discussions around health, balanced lifestyles, and well-being.  

You can encourage healthy eating habits without associating food with weight, by emphasising the importance of nourishing the body through balanced nutrition and regular exercise.  

Teen years (13-15) 

Navigating the journey of teenhood — a period marked by a whirlwind of physical changes and external pressures — can be a complex maze of self-discovery, where a young person’s sense of self is under constant construction.  

Instil Positive Food Habits  

Parents, you play a pivotal role in shaping your child’s relationship with food. Create a positive atmosphere around meals, emphasising the enjoyment of a variety of foods for their taste and nutritional value. Avoid labelling foods as “good” or “bad”, fostering a healthy and balanced approach to eating.  

Introduce your teen to the joy of cooking and involve them in meal planning! This can help cultivate a positive relationship with food that extends well into adulthood. Also, encourage physical activity as a fun and enjoyable aspect of daily life, rather than a means of weight control.  

If you notice red flags like frequent skipping of meals, severe dieting or over-exercising, you may wish to ask your child if he or she has concerns about their weight, or consider seeking professional help. 

Cultivate an Overall Healthy Lifestyle 

Promoting a healthy lifestyle encompasses more than just physical well-being.  

As parents and caregivers, we can set the tone by celebrating achievements that are unrelated to appearance and fostering an environment at home that values self-care and a balanced life! 

Written by Nicole Hong, a Sociology and Psychology Undergraduate 

Focus Singapore


Helping families thrive

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