Everywhere we turn people are talking about bodies: Strong bodies, sick bodies, short bodies, pregnant bodies. And whether we like it or not, our kids are hearing and seeing all this talk about bodies – and what’s good, bad; attractive, ugly.
It’s important for us, as parents, to add our voices to the mix, and not let the media have the only voice shaping how our children view their bodies. And as many of us adults struggle with body image ourselves, any strategies we utilize in teaching our children to have a positive body image just might help our own cause as well.
- Focus on function. Our bodies are designed to do work, perform jobs and provide us with a vehicle for living our lives – not to look good in a pair of skinny jeans. When we talk about our bodies, it’s a good idea to focus on function rather than looks. For example, instead of “You’re so skinny,” a better comment might be “I admire how fast you can run!” Focusing on how our bodies look, rather than how they feel and function does little to promote a balanced sense of health.
- Talk about it. As parents, it’s a natural thing to shy away from the tough conversations. They’re so uncomfortable, awkward and embarrassing for all involved! They’re so important though, it’s worth enduring the discomfort. If you see a billboard, hear a commercial, or view a media story about bodies – talk to your kids about it. “What do you think about that?” is a great place to start.
- And then don’t talk about it. I am surprised (and not in a good way) at how often we make comments about the bodies of others: “Did you see his hair?” “What was wrong with her arm?” It’s a hurtful habit that I – and I’m guessing many others – have. Forgoing the mean, questioning and critical comments towards others can go a long way in helping instill a positive body image in our children. Just like any other habit, it might take a bit of time to break – but it’s certainly worth trying.