We all want to raise happy, healthy children, yet we are all susceptible to issues surrounding body image. How do you walk the line of not passing these image issues on to your little ones, while helping them to discover who they are in a society that will tell them they aren’t good enough?
Avoiding shame around the body for younger children
If you want to try to impart a healthy sense of body image to your little ones, you have to start as early as you can. Consent has become a hot-button topic of late, and it applies to many areas, such as whether you should force your child to hug family members if they don’t want to. Obviously, each family has to make their own decisions. Just remember that the lessons learned during childhood are not easily undone later, so aim to set your child up with a healthy sense of self and boundaries, as well as how to express them.
Even while your children are young, it’s a good idea to practice positive body image around them. We all have our insecurities, but you don’t need to express them to your children. Remember that you are their mom, and the center of their world. You can’t make your own body image issues disappear, but you can stop them from being passed on to a new generation. Instead, encourage children to be enthusiastic about what their bodies can do, not what they look like. Encourage them to walk, bike, and play outdoors.
Even though it can be immensely tough to do things like wear a swimsuit in front of your kids without hiding, or avoiding commenting negatively on your body in front of them, the healthy minds it creates will be well worth it in the end.
Teaching children about their bodies
Another key part of the process lies in teaching your little ones about their bodies. Expert advice is to not teach children any pet names for their body parts. Nicknames suggest embarrassment is normal around these parts of their body. It also stops adults your child trusts from understanding them if they try to tell them something uncomfortable is happening, setting them up for abuse.
Helping your teen with body image
As they grow older, it will be hard for even the most loving mom to avoid their child being exposed to ideas of shame and disgust around their body. Sadly, this is even more prevalent for girls. They may hear that they or someone they admire is fat, needs to diet, is bloated, that their booty isn’t big enough or their thighs aren’t slim enough. You can’t stop this messaging, and research shows it will affect them. Reiterate positive characteristics that don’t revolve around their looks, and try to keep their focus on a strong, healthy body rather than superficial image issues. Mindfulness and other stress-busting habits could be helpful here.
What you can control is how you approach these matters. Remind them that everyone is different and that that is normal. Everyone is attracted to different things, and if they do want to do something for their body, encourage healthy eating and strength-building exercise programs. Rather help them find more about Brazilian butt lift workouts for a strong core and booty, for example, thus emphasizing the health of working out, than let them create toxic ideas around their body based on their peer’s thoughts that lead to crash diets and eating disorders.
While you can’t protect your child from poor body image forever, there’s a lot you can do to set them up for a lifelong, happy relationship with themselves.