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Talking to Children about Body Image, Self-Worth and Value

Joe Houghton, Flickr

Parents can be the biggest influence in their children’s lives, which means they are the cornerstone for shaping their child’s body image and relieving some of the insecurities the child may have.

Janice Emery is a 4-H youth development specialist for the University of Missouri Extension. She encourages parents to get involved with their children’s life choices and influence them positively so that they can have a very high self-esteem.

“Once they’re in about junior high, kids go through something where they become extremely self-centered so they start feeling like everything is about them,” Emery explained. “Usually you start to see it probably around sixth grade and then it should continue throughout high school.”

Outside influences like social media, friends, teachers, and television intimidates parents’ ability to guide their child to have a healthy outlook on life, Emery says. Children’s young minds begin to consume images they see in the media and they fall victim to believing models, singers, and actors looks are how they are to be seen.

“Kids at school have so many influences like social media and things on T.V. about how things should be and that just isn’t true,” said Emery.

Parents often feel like they must compete with the media for their child’s attention, but Emery believes that parents just have to work extra hard to make their children see their own self-worth.

“Parents should try to get their kids to give themselves compliments every day,” Emery advised. “I think if the parent has their child doing that hopefully the child will see their self-wroth and value.”

Specialists believe that a healthy body image is important in adolescence because it reflects on their physical and emotional development.

“If the mom is constantly saying ‘I need to go on a diet’ or ‘this doesn’t look good on me’ or anything like that it gets into a child’s mind and negatively effects what they think of food, the way they think they should look and make them think constantly that they have something they need to work on,” Emery explains.

Emery notes the opportunities offered through 4-H.

“I really encourage parents if you feel like your child might be struggling with body image we have programs for just about everything. One of the pillars for 4-H is that they see their value because they worked hard through something and so they know their worth and that’s one of the biggest studies that’s been conducted on 4-H is the belonging and self-value,” said Emery.

4-H is dedicated to providing programs for youth to become responsible citizens who live healthy and productive lives.

Specialists say making sure that kids see their self-worth and with parents being supportive and having an open conversation with their child can affect the child’s confidence and they will value themselves more.

“We want to connect self-worth and value to things - not just body image – because something that’s so important in our society today is making people realize that outer image is not what makes the person worth wild,” explains Emery.

Parents can locate 4-H offices close to their area by going to and to find out more information on how to enroll their child into a 4-H program.