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8 tips on raising a body-positive child in a body-shaming world

Posted May 23

This list will tell you exactly what you need to know about helping your kids love their bodies. (Deseret Photo)

If you have children, chances are they’ve seen something in the media you didn’t necessarily want them to see that has affected their body-image. Even if you think they're too young to notice that glossy magazine cover, studies say differently — Children as young as 5 years old are saying they don’t like their bodies.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to protect your child from hearing comments, seeing pictures or watching videos that promote body-shaming. It’s everywhere. However, there are things you can do to help them tune it out and realize that everyone is beautiful in their own unique way.

Here are eight tips on raising a body-positive child in a body-shaming world:

1. Don’t talk negatively about yourself

I recently heard a story of a woman who was trying on bathing suits with her daughter sitting nearby. Every time she would try one on, she would take a picture and text her friends to see what they thought. Her daughter tried one on, looked up at her mom and said, “I think I look beautiful! Do you think I look beautiful?”

The sweet mom learned a lesson about body image that day. She learned that it’s important not to base beauty off of what you see in the mirror, and not to question out loud whether or not something makes you look beautiful, because your kid is listening. You’re beautiful without the help of a bathing suit. Your kids see you. They hear you. They’ll repeat what you say and take it to heart. Speak positively about yourself and others.

2. Know how to respond when they say, “Why is that person so fat?”

Every mom wants to crawl into a hole when this happens. If you know how to handle it, however, it doesn’t have to be hard or embarrassing. Instead of urging your child to be quiet, just answer their question. Tell them everyone is different: some are big, small, short, tall, old and young. It’s important for your children to know how you look isn't something to be ashamed of.

3. Help them make healthy choices, but don’t make sugar the enemy

It’s so important to help your kids eat healthy so they know how to properly nourish their body. (But don't be overly strict: letting them have a cookie every once in a while won’t kill them.) Help your children understand why certain foods are healthy and others aren’t, but don’t make it about weight loss and gain.

4. Make exercise fun

My parents put me in every sport they could think of when I was younger, hoping I would find something I liked. Unfortunately, it never happened and I hated everything. However, I appreciate their effort in trying to find something I liked to do for exercise instead of telling me I had to go running. Help your kids find something they like to do, and they’ll learn to exercise for themselves instead of for the scale.

5. Help them understand their bodies

Having a body is an absolute miracle in itself. Teach your kids about what the body can do and how it works. Teach them that all bodies are good bodies. Tell your kids they should eat healthy food and exercise to take care of their bodies, not to lose weight or look different. If they can are aware of what their bodies can do, they have a better chance of being grateful for it instead of shaming it.

6. Don’t avoid the topic of weight loss

As a teenager, I didn’t feel my best when I put on a couple of pounds. Luckily, my mom willing and able to talk to me about it and help me, but what if I hadn’t known healthy ways to make myself feel better?

When kids start to feel ashamed of their bodies and develop unhealthy habits, step in to help. Don't focus on their weight gain, instead focus on ways to be healthier. Find sports they love and healthy foods they like and work together help your child feel good.

7. Praise and encourage them

There’s nothing wrong with telling your daughter she’s beautiful or telling your son he’s handsome. However, it’s helpful to broaden your range of compliments. Praise them for their admirable character traits, achievements and their uniqueness. This will help your children know there’s much more to them than their appearance.

8. Teach them acceptance

Teach your kids that everyone has a story. Teach them to accept people who may look different from them. Teach your children that being different isn’t bad — it's good. Help them understand that their worth and everyone else’s worth is more than they can understand, so acceptance is crucial. This goes beyond promoting healthy body-image, it teaches your child how to be a good person.

Promoting body-positivity in your family is a constant conversation and should never be neglected. Helping your children understand these important concepts can help them be confident, positive and successful in a world that's trying to put them down.

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