Author’s note: This article discusses body image issues.
As close as I am to my mother, her council with body image wasn’t necessarily always the best. Nibbling on a cookie, she would look at me and say, “Wow, I never crave things like that!” When she was trying to be endearing she would chirp in quickly, “You have such cute chunky arms!” and expect me to take it as a compliment. As hard as she tried, her negative image of herself reflected on to me and my budding curves. My mother cannot solely be blamed for certain insecurities that I have developed but her extremely healthy lifestyle did bleed into mine.
Being a mother is hard — there is no doubt in that statement — but being a body positive mother should be at the forefront of your model. Now, this is not to say that not loving your body every day is wrong. Sometimes, I feel good in my skin, sometimes I don’t. Neither way is wrong or right, they are both natural. Nevertheless, positive reinforcement is crucial. Instead of teaching your children to fight with their body, hate it, and abuse it, teach them about nurturing and self-love.
In the midst of Michelle Obama’s “anti-obesity” campaign, parents, and especially mother’s, can feel conflicted in how to properly discuss body image issues with their children. The Let’s Move! campaign urges parents to monitor their children’s diets, while experts know that too much control over a child’s food can create a long list of issues with food. Herein lies the issue: when does a parent end up crossing the line? Where is the goldilocks moments when dealing with your child’s outlook of themselves?
According to a study at Cornell University 40% of football players have engaged in some form of eating disorder and Time Magazine reports that 80% of all children have been on a diet by the time that they have reached the 4th grade. Statistically, it seems hopeless, but the positivity that children may not experience in their school setting can be influential in the home setting. As a parent, try and refrain from your own insecurities and focus on the positivity that you can enforce on your child — who know, it may even begin to wear off on your own patterns.
An easy way to begin this method is to include the obvious: positive comments. Try and steer clear of body shaming, no matter what form. According to researchers at the Harvard Medical School, when a mother has concerns over her own body weight, children may be at risk for similar body images problems or negative attitudes. As a child of a woman who penalizes her body for every small physical detail, I have found myself competing with her petite frame and small appetite. I have never hated my curves but my mother, my role model, has always insisted that her big butt is wrong. While she hasn’t directly attacked my body, as a child we absorb what is immediately surrounding us, good or bad. Even casual remarks can leave a lasting impression and parents should try, no matter how hard, to encourage body positivity. Creating an environment that praises all body types will influence your child to recognize the same.
A few easy steps to begin a positive body image in regards to your children is to:
- Compliment your children on what they do, not how they look.
- Discuss eventual body changes that occur as people grow older.
- Be grateful for your body, you only get one.
- Make sure they pay attenton to their body and its needs. Everyone is different.
Most importantly, remind your children — and yourself — that the journey in self love is always evolving and changing throughout the course of our lives.
In what ways do you teach your children about body positivity? Sound off in the comments!