Body Positive Messages at Any Age
By: Carey Snide
Body positivity starts early and with creating an environment where kids are able to see their value internally and not rely solely on the recognition or feedback of others. Many teens and adults with eating disorders suffer from low self-esteem. Here at You Have A Village our team has put together some examples of how different parents are working to set the stage to bolster their child’s self-esteem and for a body positive view at different stages of life.
A mom with a 11 month old baby girl, holding her hands, while she attempts to take her first steps. She wants this little one to grow up strong, independent and ready to take on the world. Grandpa comes in, “Oh what a pretty little girl! I’m so proud of you!”
Mom, wanting to set the stage for building her little one’s confidence and promoting body positivity, speaks up to model how she is shifting her wording to praising her daughter for what she can control, like how hard she works, “Way to go Munchkin! You’re working hard!” Mom is planting the seeds in this little one that she is a strong, capable person who has intrinsic value.
Imagine you are 9 years old and LOVE gymnastics! You have been tumbling and jumping for years and now you have the legs to prove it. You look in the mirror and see your thighs and remember the girls at school comparing pants sizes last week. Your dad comes in with laundry, seeing you looking in the full length mirror with a grimace on your face, “Hey there kiddo, admiring your power?” You turn, embarrassed you were caught inspecting yourself and annoyed at dad. “Those legs are what make you stick those landings better than any other teammate at your gymnastics class.” Dad shifted his daughter’s image from what her legs look like to what she can achieve with her legs.
A 15-year-old boy who is a classic over achiever, is working to make the team and begins to exercise every free minute of the day. He is is very particular about the food he eats, focusing on eating high protein and not consuming carbs. You know that boys can also have body image struggles and often have a strong desire to be masculine so you emphasize the other qualities that makes him an amazing human. Being intentional about noticing his character qualities is a great way to start, ”You are such a generous person, the way you helped our neighbor with shoveling and yard work without expecting something in return is so amazing.” Finding someone for your son to spend time with that will build him up, someone he will look up to, is also a great way to help him be positive. The point is, sometimes teenage boys just want to figure out what makes them special, so helping them see that will go a long way in building their self-esteem and protecting them from some of the body image pitfalls that come with this stage of uncertainty and maturity.
In summary, here are some of our tips to promote body positivity:
Shift the language used to focus on intrinsic value by naming and praising character qualities.
Focus on intuitive eating: noticing when our body is hungry and full.
Don’t talk negatively about your body or others with your children (or anyone for that matter!)
Do enjoy family meals and physical activity together as a healthy way to connect.
All bodies are beautiful and all people have something wonderful to offer.
Remind your child that all cultures have socially ascribed their own concept of beauty. Check your own body image assumptions and bias, are your words and actions lining up? Being mindful before you speak and identifying for them that there is a difference between healthy and how we look, will plant those seeds for a healthy body image and a confident human.
For more parenting tips and to learn more about all of our support groups, be sure to check out our website at www.youhaveavillage.com.