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From the time my daughter was born, I was convinced I was not going to allow the common body image society stereotypes play a part in how she felt about her own body. I knew this was going to be easier said than done for several reasons.
Even without cable television, there are many things stacked against my children (a boy and girl) having a healthy child body image:
- They both are active in dance/sports where pressure (whether it’s willingly or not) is placed on staying thin and fit.
- Movies targeted toward children are full of what society has decided are attractive and thin people. Creating what my children now see as the norm.
- Well meaning adults are always making comments about how “cute”, “beautiful”, or “handsome” children are–placing even more value on their image.
- I grew up facing my own body image issues that I now face as an adult. It’s up to me not to let those come out and be a part of my parenting.
- There is always peer pressure. As a 1st grade teacher, I am sorry to tell you that this starts at a much younger age than most parents think. Unfortunately, it is not a middle school-high school problem. It is happening in elementary school as well.
- Sometimes people make up funny names for private body parts, making them taboo or as if they are an off limits subject.
There isn’t any way we can avoid pressures our children are faced with when creating a healthy child body image, which will in turn lead to a healthy adult body image. But we can do things as parents to help foster a healthy body image!
Creating a healthy body image:
- When making comments about your child’s body, make them about how healthy or happy they look. Don’t place over-emphasis on beauty.
- Don’t talk negative about bodies. This includes YOUR body. Don’t talk about needing to lose “just 5 more lbs”. But this also includes talking about people around you, both people you know and strangers. Teach your child not to make mean or snarky comments about other people based on their bodies.
- Be comfortable in your own body. No matter how much you hate how huge your thighs have gotten or all the stretch marks you have from having kids, put on that bathing suit and enjoy the pool with your children. Don’t be the mom who sits on the side of the pool. Be confident and show your kids that you have to be confident and comfortable with yourself.
- Teach your children to love to be outside, enjoying nature, enjoying running and enjoying playing. Get right out there and play with them. Lead an active lifestyle. Be active–running, playing and being happy together!
- When someone comments on how my child looks (beautiful, cute, etc…), after my child says thank you and the person walks away, I remind my child that they are: smart, confident, healthy, kind, helpful, etc…
- Cook together. But don’t make it all about the healthy stuff. Sure, learning how to cook healthy family meals is important, but what’s really important here is spending time together, cooking and eating together as a family. So bake a cake. Learn to LOVE food as a family. There is nothing wrong with cake and ice cream just like there is nothing wrong with a Mediterranean Salad.
- Love your child. Love your child for who she or he is.
There are so many obstacles our children face in the world. Let’s do what we can to make the world a little bit friendlier and positive for them.