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- Early Childhood
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- Learning with Technology
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- Sex, Gender, and Body Image
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My sixth-grade son wants "six pack" abs. What should I do?
Around sixth grade, kids become more self-conscious and more concerned about others' opinions. Their bodies are changing, and they're exposed to more mature media, such as PG-13 movies wherein the heroes almost always have six-packs. Your son has clearly gotten the message that muscled abs are better: for fighting bad guys, getting the girl, and just generally looking tough.
Boys can develop an unhealthy body image just as girls can. But a boy's body image has more to do with looking buff and chiseled. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be fit, but it's a red flag when kids are only concerned with outward appearance.
Check your own behavior. Are you overly critical of your own body? Do you exercise and eat well? You're setting an example of adult behavior.
Do a reality check. Help your children form realistic expectations. Point out that the sports celebrities they admire have teams of people helping them work them out, feeding them special meals, and, in some cases, surgically altering them. The same holds true for "hot" movie stars. One glance at the real men in kids’ lives will drive home this point.
If your son is on a sports team, check in with him about training. Find out what kind of messages he's getting from his coach and from other team members. Make sure his diet and exercise regimen are part of a larger goal of being healthy.