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Teach Children Positive Self-Image Through Fitness - By Lynn Bode


Raising a pre-teen or teenage daughter (or son) is not easy and can cause any parent a lot of stress. There?s so much to worry about ? dating, drugs, alcohol, sex, school grades, just to name a few. But one crucial element often gets overlooked until it manifests itself in extreme ways (like through an eating disorder). I?m talking about self-image. It?s extremely important that parents ensure that their children have a positive self-image, especially in relation to their body.

The key to ensuring strong self-esteem and a positive body image starts with the parent. If you don?t feel positive about your self-image, then how can you expect your children to? While this is important for both daughters and sons, it is especially critical for raising a healthy daughter. And beginning the lessons when a girl is young is imperative, so don?t wait until it?s too late ? teaching your daughter to feel good about her body needs to start at a very young age.

Eating disorder experts say girls are developing eating disorders as young as 5 and 6 years old. And a recent study indicated that 70% of the sixth-grade girls they surveyed said they began worrying about their weight between ages 9 and 11. Why are so many young girls thinking that they are fat? Many are obsessing about their weight because they have parents who are preoccupied with their own poor body images.

While the statistics are disheartening, the good news is that there?s a lot that can be done to help our children have positive self-images. And, even small changes that parents make can help. Here are few tips to help your children avoid warped and negative body images:

? Establish a ?no diet talk? rule. When your children are nearby, DON?T talk about dieting or how fat you feel! This is extremely important. Remember, kids are listening all the time (even when you think that they aren?t ? especially then). So, even though asking your spouse or friend ?do I look fat in this?? may seem innocent, it can have a life-altering effect on your kids when they repeatedly hear it.

? Parents aren?t the only adults that influence their children. Set the ?no diet talk? rule mentioned above for all adults that are around your children. This means you shouldn?t allow your friends, parents, siblings, neighbors, or anyone else to talk about being fat or being on a diet when they are around your children.

? Set a good example. If your children never see you engage in fitness or if they hear you complain about working out, then they are going to have a negative image of exercise. Let them know that you workout to stay healthy, to be strong and to have more energy and stamina (so you can keep up with them)!

? Get your kids involved in sports. Experts say that playing sports really helps build confidence and improves self-esteem (especially for girls).

? Teach your children to include physical activity as part of their daily routine. But don?t force them to exercise. Make sure that the physical activity is seen as something fun to do rather than teaching them to think of exercise as a necessary evil. Good activities include taking a nightly family walk, turning off the t.v. and instead turning music on that you all can dance to, or taking a weekend family bike ride.

? Try to prepare (or if you are short are time purchase) healthy meals. And teach them the importance of good nutrition. Don?t let them have the misconception that there are ?good? and ?bad? foods. If a kid thinks that candy is a ?bad? food, then naturally they will just want it more. Just try to encourage your kids to eat a balanced diet each day and to eat sugary or fatty foods in moderation.

Remember that something as small as talking about losing weight in front of your kids can have very detrimental effects on their self-image as they age. Damaging behavior learned from a parent at a young age can take years for a child to overcome. So, the sooner you start incorporating the tips above into your life, the better for you child. But don?t forget that it has to start with you ? make sure that you are incorporating healthy fitness and eating rituals into your daily routine and that you have a positive body image (no matter what your size or shape is)!

Lynn Bode offers her personal training services online through her company, Workouts For You provides even the busiest of parents affordable, personalized exercise programs (via the Internet)for losing weight, toning-up, building muscles & increasing stamina. The programs can be done on their schedule and in the comfort of their own home (or gym or on-the-road). Visit for a FREE sample workout.

How to Effectively Talk to Kids about Tragedies by Barbara McRae, MCC - By Barbara McRae, MCC


Watching the news around the globe, seeing actual footage of earthquakes, California mudslides, avalanches and the tsunami, ignite feelings of distress and overwhelm in adults, let alone in our children.

How young people are affected by such tragedies largely depends on the level of maturity and overall temperament of each child plus the coping patterns adults consistently model. It can be difficult for caregivers to cope with their own feelings and know what to say to help their children handle theirs.

Here are some must-read tips:

Young Children

Many parents wisely choose to shield their children from graphic news coverage on TV. If your child is aware of a tragedy, it is important to acknowledge the event as soon as possible and to empathize with whatever feelings your youngster is expressing about it. For example, ?It sounds like you are worried that this could happen to us.?

Parents often want to minimize tragic events; they think that by minimizing a child?s concern, they are protecting their child from further upsets. Talking about the trauma - unless you keep rehashing it - is healing and keeps vital communication lines open between parent and child. Denying or ignoring leads to a sense of isolation and more suffering.

What Not to Do

? Do not tell your children they are being silly, to ?get over it? or ?grow up?

? Do not overreact; it makes matters worse

? Do not let your children avoid facing their fears (have them talk or draw how they feel)

? Do not gloss over feelings

DO talk about feelings. By doing so, you are modeling that it is okay to have feelings and express them in a healthy manner. You?ll be enhancing their emotional intelligence by helping them develop their feeling vocabulary. Discuss with them the distinction between being compassionate and having empathy (loving and empowering) versus taking on the fear, pain, and grief of others (limiting and self-sabotaging).

Provide age appropriate information about how nature creates a tidal wave (or a volcanic eruption or other natural disaster). If you don?t know, refer to books or magazines to help you. Make it an opportunity for learning. Keep it simple and respond to questions without offering too much information. Close your conversation by redirecting it to feeling grateful that your family is safe.

Older Children

Preteens and teens typically have more questions and want to discuss events. Here, too, it?s best to first find out how they are feeling and acknowledge how they are experiencing the tragedy. Be focused on what?s going on for them and stay connected by empathizing and asking insightful questions.

A common fear for children, in addition to worrying about their own safety, is the fear of losing a parent. Are you prepared to answer the question, ?What if you suddenly die?? One of my clients wasn?t sure how to reassure her children; she wanted to be honest and direct. Yet she also realized that none of us knows exactly when we are going to die and didn?t want to make a promise she couldn?t keep.

What you can say is that people don?t normally die until they are very old and reassure your kids that you?re not planning on dying anytime soon. You can tailor this answer to fit your religious beliefs and your specific situation.

The best way to help your children is to make sure you have healthy behavior patterns for handling *your* fears and stress. If you tend to get overly fearful or keep your feelings to yourself, then your children are likely to do the same. Being tearful or acknowledging your fear is fine. Freaking out is not. If you are not feeling calm enough to have these conversations with your kids, take a few minutes to get centered. If that fails, get the help you need to fully be there for yourself as well as them.

Remind your children that no matter what happens, there is always help available. Ask them to begin to look for the ?helpers of the world.? Help them understand the value of volunteering and the difference non-profit organizations make.

Discuss how your family can help others in need. Kids often feel better when they can actively participate in providing aid to less fortunate families. They may want to say a prayer, light a candle, donate possessions, raise money or send an encouraging letter. Let them take action; it helps children learn the lesson of love firsthand.

We know that all events can be used for good if we help ourselves become great role models for our children by using effective communication and coping skills. We can help them learn how to handle difficult situations in life and teach the rewards of reaching out to others even if they are half way around the world.

Barbara McRae, MCC, is founder of Teen Frontier International and author of ?Coach Your Teen to Success?7 Simple Steps to Transform Relationships and Enrich Lives.? She has positively impacted the lives of thousands of adults and kids. For more information, visit:

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