How can we help children develop a healthy body image

You may have seen or read in the news that health professionals are warning of rising cases of children suffering from eating disorders. At The British School of Barcelona, we take this worrying trend seriously and want parents to be able to support their children in the case they may suffer any eating disorder.

 

Why is this happening?

It is likely that the heightened anxiety and uncertainty created by the pandemic is exacerbating all new and existing mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression or eating disorders. Disordered eating behaviours may be adopted as a way to control feelings and attempt to cope. A lot of children have also been spending more time online and are likely to be exposed to content that may well encourage poor self-esteem and unhealthy eating behaviours.

 

How can we help?

Being aware of the warning signs and seeking professional help sooner rather than later can be key. The Ineqe Safeguarding Group state that warning signs may include:

  • Refusing to eat certain foods; engagement with fad diets or masking problematic behaviours with different food practices (no sugar, no carbs, vegan, keto, paleo etc) or a preoccupation with calories
  • Withdrawal or less interest in social activities that were previously enjoyable
  • Making frequent comments about feeling ‘fat’ or ‘overweight’ or a preoccupation with looking in the mirror to check for flaws
  • Drinking excessive amounts of water/low calorie drinks (black coffee/diet fizzy drinks)
  • Sudden poor oral hygiene, or brushing of teeth more than necessary
  • For females, they may miss their period or have other menstrual irregularities
  • Impaired immune system or healing problems
  • Irritability, low mood and other mental health issues
  • Maintaining excessive exercise habits despite weather, fatigue, social life or other obligations
  • The disappearance of large amounts of food

 

What are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses caused by genetic as well as environmental factors – negative body image is just one potential contributor. However, negative body image is prominent in eating disorders because many people with eating disorders place a high value on their body shape and weight when determining their own self-worth.

 

The importance of a healthy positive image

So developing a positive body image could be an important protective factor. Recognising this, at BSB we dedicate time in our curriculum to work with our younger students on promoting a positive body image via a project that we have designed especially for our students and are calling “Be Unique“.

Alongside the project we are offering a Parents Webinar on Monday 7th June with tips for parents to support their children in developing a positive body image.

 


Related links:

Wellbeing & Pastoral Care