Talking to Your Kids About Body Image
In honour of Mother’s Day yesterday, I thought I would share an experience I had with my 10 year old daughter recently.
One evening, a little while ago, my daughter came out of the shower asked me what ‘weight meant’. When I asked her what she was referring to she said ‘what does it mean to lose weight? How do you lose weight?’ I asked her why she wanted to know and she proceeded to tell me that she didn’t like the size of her stomach and wanted a smaller tummy. My heart absolutely sunk! I have always tried to be diligent when it comes to body messages in our house. I don’t make comments about other people’s bodies, I don’t comment on my body and try and always focus on being healthy – eating healthy foods most of the time and keeping active for the sake of feeling good. So where would she get the idea that there was something wrong with her body?
It made me realize that as parents, we don’t have much control over the messages our girls get about their bodies once they leave our house. I can’t control the kids at school who make negative comments about themselves or others. I can’t control the messages they get from media, tv, internet and magazines. The only thing I can control is the conversations I have with her and the example I set for her.
We sat together for a while and I told her that for one thing she was a healthy young girl and didn’t need to change one thing about her body or herself. I told her that she was so much more than her appearance. I tried to point out examples of things she does with her body and her brain that are amazing. I’ve seen it said on the internet “How to you talk to your daughter about her body? Don’t talk to her about her body”. While the intent behind that advice is good, I don’t think it is practical. Avoiding the conversations about her body will not negate the negative messages she gets inundated with every single day.
I plan on continuing to talk to my daughter about all aspects of herself. Her body – it’s amazing attributes and how to keep it healthy, her mind and how to keep it open, critical and always seeking new information and all aspects of her personality that make her the amazing person she is. I also plan to do this with my son!
How do you deal with these negative body image messages that your kids are exposed to? Share your experiences in the comments below.