As much as we want to have perfectly healthy relationships with our bodies, damaging social messages can find their way into our psyche and make us feel anxious or negative about ourselves. Our kids are not immune, either. No matter how much we may want to shield them from it, they can pick up harmful messages that contribute to a negative body image from peers, from media, and... from us. Thankfully, there are signs your anxiety about your own body is being transferred to your child; signs that can let you know it's time to make some changes, so your child doesn't end up feeling the same way about their own body.
Romper spoke with Dr. Rebecca Berry, Ph.D., a psychologist at NYU specializing in adolescent eating disorders, to find out how to tell if you're transferring body shame and anxiety to your kid and what to do about it.
First of all, I wanted to know if there was any actual evidence that suggests that parental body shame is "contagious" to kids. Just because it seems to be a common sense connection doesn't always mean it's real, and as parents we're already subjected to an awful lot of guilt and pressure around our feelings and how they affect our kids.
Dr. Berry says, "I tell parents to watch for changes in their child’s eating behaviors, negative comments about their own weight or shape, as well as the shape of others." And while anyone can have a moment or two of feeling bad about their own body, Dr. Berry tells me that "frequent expressions of sadness or hopelessness about their own weight and shape and attempts to diet excessively for the purpose of losing weight are immediate concerns and may require consultation with an outside professional."