Teaching your kids about a healthy body image
In our home, we intentionally emphasize the beauty of diversity. Explaining God makes us all differently. What fun would it be if we’re all the same? Despite this message of acceptance of outward appearance, our children pick up on societal messages. These come through lots of different things, take a look at these Disney pictures:
Snow White is fair, young, and beautiful. The villain on the other hand is portrayed as old and ugly.
Here’s another: Arial showcases her small waist, large breasts, and doe-eyes. Ursula, the villain is overweight and again not attractive. These pictures offer a snapshot into the society’s view of beauty.
I was shocked when Ethan starting talking about “chubby” people. His tone wasn’t merely stating a description of a person. He was inferring negativity about being overweight, almost in a disdainful manner.
Like the good therapist I am, I probed with a few questions. My suspicions were correct, he told me being fat is bad and being skinny is good. I’m not really surprised by this black and white thinking, but what struck me was his attitude about weight.
My heart hurt because for so many years I battle with my own body image. Even with instilling a value of acceptance, kids pick up on messages they hear at school, see on movies/TV, and what they hear from other family members.
Here are some do’s and don’ts for interacting and teaching your kids about body image:
Do: Discuss how God made us different shapes and sizes. We all have different body types. Emphasize how strong our bodies are and all they can do for us, like run, play sports, etc.
Don’t: Negatively comment on other’s weight or appearance. Nuff said.
Do: Teach Your Kid’s Body Image lessons. For example: when I work out, I tell the kids why I’m working out. I explain to them, we only get one body and it’s up to me to take good care of mine.
Don’t: Be silent about why they should respect and care for their bodies. Share with your kids about how our bodies are to be respected and honored. Depending on your child’s age this will vary greatly.
Do: Model Self acceptance. Let your kids hear you say nice things about yourself.
Don’t: Criticize yourself. When you put down your own body in front of your kids, you are giving them a clear message that it’s okay not to like yourself. They internalize this message and begin to feel the same way about themselves.
Do: Talk to your kids about nutrition and food. One afternoon, Ethan and I sat down with various types of food and we packed his lunches for the week. I asked him to pick out one fruit, vegetable, diary, protein, and carbohydrate. When we were done, he said he had never thought about food that way…he learned a valuable lesson that day.
Don’t: Discuss fad diets and “thinspiration” ideals with your kids. For example, “they would be so much prettier if they were to loose “x” about of pounds.”
Undoubtedly, there are many more do’s and don’ts…. Continue the conversation – what are your do’s and don’ts for teaching your children about a healthy body image?
We continue to model loving acceptance for ourselves and others. This is harder for me than it is Justin. I don’t want to be fake about what I teach the kids, so I have genuinely come to terms with my weight and appearance. Learning how to care, respect, and have proper perspective. I believe if you can do those three things, you are on the road to having a healthy body image. If you can teach your kids those same lessons you will help to model and teach your kids how to have more acceptance about their bodies.
Our children are watching us. The subtle or not so subtle messages will impact them for years to come. You, like your children, have been created with intent and purpose. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Blessings to you,