11 Early Signs Your Kid Might Be Developing Body Image Issues Already

Ad failed to load

It might seem like the most far off thing to imagine, as you watch your school-aged kid run around the park or concentrate on destroying a new level in their video game (I mean, super educational iPad app), but believe it or not, even if they're still young, there might already be plenty of signs your child has low self-esteem, or is already developing body image issues. Yes, even if you still consider them too young to even be aware that the term "body image" is a thing (which, to be fair, they might be), that doesn't mean they are exempt from this issue that seems to be creeping up on kids earlier and earlier.

Thanks to the big, bad, beautiful Internet, how the media affects self-esteem is an even more important factor for them than for us as adults. Kids get to see the Kardashian clan embrace plastic surgery like it's going out of style (isn't it, though?), and get to witness magazine covers telling them how disgusting the celebrities are who have gained weight and all of the "totally easy tricks" to have a "perfect body." You don't have to be a teenager to read between the lines and deduce that if a perfect body looks like that, and your body doesn't look like that, then your body is bad and wrong. It's a simple (yet, as we know, painfully effective) message. Basically, kids are getting it at every angle from a very young age, and as a result, your kid might be developing body image issues already.

But the problems with body image issues in the media go beyond some TV shows and magazine covers for kids. As we're well aware, kids are undiscerning sponges. They soak up (and keep) everything they see and hear. And thanks to them being kids, the good, the bad, and the outright bullsh*t all gets jumbled around in side of them in huge messes of misinformation and unhealthy ideas. This can so easily result in kids developing body images early on, starting them on what could be dangerous roads of self-loathing, real self-esteem problems, and even horrible things like disordered eating and self-harm.

Ad failed to load

The good news is, the earlier you catch these problems, the easier they are to fix. If you can pinpoint the signs yourself, maybe you can nip this dilemma in the bud for your kid and/or get them outside, professional help and guidance. If nothing else, it's at least worth keeping an eye on.

Ad failed to load

1They Only Focus On Their Physical Imperfections


Gone are the days of worrying about grades or whether or not they have enough friends. Instead, your kid is worried about those pretty much nonexistent love handles and that tiny bubble of a pimple that recently popped up on their chin.

2They're Quick To Notice The Excess / Lack Of Weight In Others

If your kid is developing body issues already, then you had better believe that they're looking at everyone around them to compare their own body. There's nothing wrong with a little appreciation for other people's awesome bodies, but when your kid's attention turns from being amazed by what they see various bodies doing and turns into an almost obsession with how bodies look (especially if they saying things about wishing they had so-and-so's legs or arms), then it's possible something much more serious is fueling those thoughts.

3They Start Refusing Favorite Snacks

OK, I'm not going to say that you need to ply your kid with fist-fulls of fruit snack packets or bowls of cheese balls, but the thing about childhood is that we, the parents, are supposed to be worrying about the physical effects of the food going into our kids' mouths. They're just supposed to want what tastes good. If you notice your kid starting to reconsider, like, the calories in a snack they used to love, it might be time to have a conversation.

Ad failed to load

4You Catch Them Scrutinizing Themselves In The Mirror More Often


Part of having body image issues, for some people, involves spending hours nitpicking at yourself in front of the mirror. If you catch your kid attaching themselves to the mirror much more than they used to, criticizing themselves instead of admiring anything about their reflection, then it's definitely a sign to pump the breaks.

5They Start Getting Upset About Finding Clothes To Wear

There's nothing wrong with good grooming, or wanting to look presentable. And obviously, at a certain age, "I have nothing to wear" meltdown are just going to happen. But when your kid (especially a young child) gets to the point of trying on countless outfits because, to them, absolutely nothing looks even remotely acceptable on their body, then it's time to care a little less about those piles of clean clothes on the bedroom floor and care more about the meaning behind them.

6They're Already Talking About Dieting

Thanks to the kind of talk about food and body that so many adults tend to engage in with other adults, our kids will often get to hear about all of it. I'm not here to tell you not to diet (you're an adult; live your own journey), but whether it's from you, TV, or anywhere else, it's possible for your young kids to know that diets are a thing, and that ultimately they're designed to make bodies that are "wrong" become "right."

Ad failed to load

7Working Out Is Suddenly Above All Else


Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be healthy, and exercise is as awesome for kids as it is for adults, but...there's a limit. For little kids in particular, exercise should be a byproduct, from their perspective, of doing things that are fun, like riding a bike or jumping on a trampoline. It could be a problem if a kid is trying to push their body in the gym for the sake of changing it.

8They're Always Comparing Their Body To Others People

This is another thing that we adults tend to do. Even if you personally don't compare your body to anyone else's (at least not out loud, in front of your kids), you can be sure that they're still going to be exposed to the practice of comparing bodies and evaluating worth accordingly from somewhere else. It's important to monitor whether or not those messages are taking root in your way-too-young-for-that-sh*t kid's brain.

9They're Mimicking The "I'm So Fat" Behavior

Again, even if you don't bemoan your weight, your kids will probably hear someone do it, and it might stick with them. When it comes to your kid, hearing that little squeaky voice talk about how "fat" they are is just heartbreaking.

Ad failed to load

10They Have Been Eating Less At Meals


This probably goes without saying, but your kid might be developing body image and self-esteem issues if they're skipping meals or eat smaller portions, especially if those things are happening in conjunction with other signs on this list. Come on, didn't we learn anything from DJ Tanner?

11They're Quick To Tie Guilt To Food

I can't even count how many times I've heard someone refer to chocolate or dessert items as "guilty pleasures" or feeling guilty, period, for indulging in something less than healthy. This is another type of behavior that kids catch onto, resulting in unhealthy eating habits that are way more damaging that snacking on a Kit-Kat every now and then.

While sometimes it might be hard to identify the signs that your kid might have low self-esteem or be developing body image issues, the important thing is that you're diligent in identifying them and catching them as early as possible, without reading too much into every weird little thing they do. Because kids are weird. And they'll say and do weird things, and suddenly hate foods they used to love, and say things about themselves that might seem alarming with the grown-up context we give them, but that might not mean anything to your kid. It's really just so hard to know what's just normal childhood fickleness, and what's symptomatic of the start of a real problem. All you can really do is love them, watch them, try to send them positive messages about their body, and get into their business as much as possible. That's what you're there for, right? To be totally annoying and completely involved as a parent.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

15 Baby Names With Unique Nicknames, So Your Family Has Options

I love a good diminutive name, also known as a nickname. I believe I’m partial to them because of my own name, Abigale, but I go by Abi. And since they’re both uniquely spelled, everyone thinks my name is pronounced Ah-bee for some reason — but even …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills