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Your Healthy Family: Parents' Negative Body Image Can Impact Children

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Even if a parent isn?t commenting on the child?s appearance, Dr. Eshleman said the child may have similar features and might interpret those comments to reflect on their own appearance. Even if a parent isn?t commenting on the child?s appearance, Dr. Eshleman said the child may have similar features and might interpret those comments to reflect on their own appearance.
COLORADO SPRINGS -

Most of us have found ourselves complaining about our appearance, especially during swimsuit season.

But according to Kate Eshleman, PsyD, of Cleveland Clinic Children's, sometimes parents need to be reminded that little ears are often listening to what they say, even when they don't know it.

“Daughters and sons listen, not only to what their parents say, but they also watch what they do,” said Dr. Eshleman. “If parents are making comments about their own physical features, it affects the way the kids feel about the parent's physical features as well as their own.”

Even if a parent isn't commenting on the child's appearance, Dr. Eshleman said the child may have similar features and might interpret those comments to reflect on their own appearance.

She said it's important for parents, not only to monitor what they say, but the way they behave. This is particularly true when it comes to mothers and daughters.

Dr. Eshleman said moms who criticize their own appearance or engage in either extreme dieting or unhealthy eating behaviors may be more likely to have daughters who do the same.

For parents who want to be healthier and want to encourage their children to adopt healthier habits, there is a better way to communicate this message.

“The emphasis should always be on being healthy and really recognizing that a healthy body can take on many different shapes and forms,” said Dr. Eshleman. “Really focusing on physical activity and engaging in that physical activity together; eating healthy meals; doing things like shopping and preparing the food together.”

Dr. Eshleman said all parents, both moms and dads, need to remember that children model behavior and while it's important to eat healthy, over-doing dieting or over-exercising can be problematic for children to see.

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