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Sacramento Parent Magazine

Ask the Expert: How to Raise Body-Confident Kids

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A Healthy Body Image Begins with Mom

By Kim McLaughlin, MFT

"It’s swimsuit season, and I hate my body! I am afraid that my kids might be picking up on my insecurities. How can I teach them to be comfortable in their own skins, when I'm not comfortable in mine?"

Congratulations. You have taken the first step by acknowledging there is a problem, and you are right to be mindful that your kids learn from what you say and do. They can pick up on a parent’s insecurity and make it their own.

So, how do you start building a better body image?

Begin by accepting yourself the way you are now, by showing yourself kindness and compassion. Eliminate negative self-talk about your body. I know this can be hard, but kindness is the key. One trick is to have a set of positive statements you say about yourself when you begin to have a negative thought. One is, “I accept myself the way I am.”

Take time to get in touch with your body. Taking deep breaths can be very empowering and can help you get centered, so you don’t get caught up in negativity. I recommend a few slow, deep breaths into your belly, focusing on the relaxation this brings.

By taking time for yourself, you can then be the parent you want to be for your kids. Depending on their ages, ask your kids about their feelings about themselves. An open dialogue can help children express their concerns and allows you to create a positive atmosphere for them.

If you continue to be concerned about your insecurities and body image, or think you might have an eating disorder, seek assistance from a professional, such as a therapist, to help you determine the next step.

Kim McLaughlin is a Sacramento Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. You can learn more about her at