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Body image and eating

Cute little boy posing in front of mirror indoorsChildren with a healthy body image are happy with the way they think about their body and the way they perceive how they look and move. This perception starts during babyhood and continues developing throughout our lives. Having a positive body image will give your child greater confidence and higher self-esteem.

Children are exposed to a range of body images daily and some might start to worry they need to look a certain way, feeling sad or anxious if they believe they don’t match up. This can lead to them having lower levels of confidence, increased anxiety, negative thoughts about themselves, feeling withdrawn and even self-harming or controlling what they eat.

From a very young age, children are aware of comments made about their body, and of those around them. Teasing can hurt, and might lead to unhealthy eating habits. Always stay positive about food and body shape, encouraging your children to eat a healthy diet and to be active. Listen to any worries they may have.

Families who might need further support

Neurodivergent young people may have issues around food that can be complex. Your child may restrict certain foods due to sensory processing challenges or anxiety in social situations. They may feel the need for the control and familiarity that restricted eating brings, and sometimes they develop strict routines around exercise and calorie counting. has advice for parents of neurodivergent children.

Kent School Health offers one-to-one support based on your child’s unique needs. Visit our special educational needs or neurodivergence pages for more information on the support available for you and your child.

Useful resources

  • Family has a guide on body image issues in children and teens.
  • Young Minds has a guide for parents on eating disorders.
  • The Beat Project has a helpline for parents and young people suffering from or concerned about eating disorders.