Body image is most basically defined as how a person feels and thinks about their body. It can affect your thoughts and influence your actions and how you go about your life. This is why it is important as a parent to help teach your female cheerleader how to love and appreciate their body.
Statistically, girls are much more conscious of how they look and are more likely to suffer from body image problems. Cheerleading puts a lot of pressure on young girls regarding how their body should look and what it should be able to do. When girls are growing and developing the most, cheer puts added stress on body image and confidence. Being a female cheerleader can create a lot of confidence, but it can also just as easily do the opposite. As a parent, you can do a lot to guide your young cheerleaders and teach them healthy ways to think about their bodies.
Lead By Example
Kids mimic behavior, and their first teachers are their parents. Your kids listen to how you talk about your body. If you constantly express dissatisfaction with how you look, your kids will learn to do the same. The same applies to dieting. If you express a need for dieting or a desire to diet to get thinner, they will adopt the same mindset.
Create a Positive Relationship With Food
As a parent, you have a lot of control over what your kids eat. The home is where children learn all about food. Establishing a regular family mealtime will help you teach them portion control, balance, and recognize when they feel full or hungry. It will also put them in a safe environment to try new foods.
Try not to teach them how to “diet” instead of helping them understand moderation and the importance of food as fuel. As cheerleaders, your girls need to be appropriately fueled to have enough energy for practice. You can teach them that food is fuel and it is necessary to eat to perform at the best of their abilities. Instead of labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” you can teach them about moderation and help them learn to include fruits, veggies, and protein into their diets.
Give Them Reassurance
All children go through periods where they struggle with body image and appearance. Girls especially go through major changes during puberty. They can gain weight, their bodies change shape, and they may struggle with the changes in cheer. It isn’t uncommon for a girl to be a flyer one season and then move to base the next season. For some girls, this may impact them negatively. The best thing you can do is to provide your kids with compliments and reassurance when expressing insecurities.
Celebrate Their Abilities
The best way to help your young cheerleaders gain confidence is to celebrate all of the amazing things their bodies can do. If your child is insecure about growing too tall to fly, point out how amazing their long legs look when they do jumps. If they are uncertain about being too big to fly, point out how strong they are, and without those muscles, they wouldn’t be able to tumble as well. Turn the insecurities into pride. You can also compliment them on other things such as their flexibility, energy, or unique showmanship ability during competitions.
Help Them Set Goals
If your child is struggling with body insecurity, help them to set attainable goals. This will help them see the progress and ability that their bodies have. The goals could be as simple as getting an above-level toe-touch or a standing-back tuck. Set a goal with them, and when they reach it, celebrate their success and praise their body for reaching the goal. This will help them develop confidence in themselves and an appreciation for their body.
Keep open communication with your female cheerleaders. Try to check in on how they are feeling every once and a while. Let them know that they can talk to you about any insecurities they may be feeling. If you are concerned about their health when it comes to food and their body, try to get them help. You can set them up with a food counselor or nutritionist, and there are many resources that you can go to for help: F.E.A.S.T and Maudsley Parents