Teaching your child the value of body positivity
Kids today are constantly bombarded with misinformation from the media about what dictates the standard of beauty and health. From movies and television to the news and social media, the constant onslaught of images, videos, and ideas can instill a negative body image.
And unfortunately, these things not only impact how your kids think about and treat others, but also directly affect their own body image and how they treat themselves. As such, it is important for parents to start teaching their children the value of body positivity from a young age.
Having healthy conversations about body image can not only help your kids be healthier and teach them how to be more kind to and accepting of others, but it can also help them build strong mental health.
So, what can you do to teach your child about body positivity? Let’s take a look.
Lead by example
Children are like parrots; they mimic everything you do and are listening and watching even when you don’t think they are. So one of the best ways to start teaching them healthy body image from a young age is to lead by example.
If you practice healthy habits, are mindful of the words you use about bodies and weight in everyday conversations, have good self-esteem yourself, and don’t talk bad about your own body, it can go a long way toward teaching your child to do the same.
If you talk negatively about yourself or point out negative things about other people’s bodies, however, you are teaching your child to have a poor image of what constitutes a good or healthy body. Everyone has things they don’t like about their bodies, but it’s important to avoid pointing these things out in front of your child.
Varicose veins, for example, are something thousands of people struggle with, and it’s not uncommon for people to point them out and treat them as if they are unsightly. But even something that seems as insignificant as talking about how someone’s veins look can trigger negative ideas about body image.
Talk to them about their body
Many parents start teaching their kids how to identify different body parts when they are little to simply teach them basic anatomy. You can take those teachings one step further by not only identifying different body parts but also talking about why those body parts are important and why we should appreciate them.
For example, you can teach them things like “your belly is amazing, it keeps you fed and nourished” or “your ears are great, they help you hear.”
Teach them about other bodies
As an add-on discussion about your child’s body, it’s also important to talk about other bodies. You want your child to learn to love their body but to understand that other bodies are also amazing and beautiful, even if they are different.
For example, if you teach your child that their ears are amazing because they help them hear, you can make a comment about how some people can’t hear though. Some people have ears, but they are deaf — and that’s okay because they have other body parts that can help them, like their eyes and hands.
Pointing out that disabilities are okay and don’t make someone “less than” or “other” is a very important part of body positivity lessons. The same goes for teaching them that it’s okay for people to have different body types, different skin colors, different heights, etc.
Prioritize health over weight
When talking about bodies and health with your child to promote body positivity, it’s crucial to avoid making weight a focal point. Too much focus on weight and how it relates to health can lead to issues like eating disorders when they get older.
Teens wanting to diet, for example, is a common result of poor body image. So when you talk to your child about bodies and being healthy, make sure you prioritize that all body sizes are beautiful and that being healthy is about how you feel, not about how much you weigh.
Encourage healthy habits
For some kids, it’s hard to understand why they need to practice healthy habits, like eating certain foods, exercising, and brushing their teeth. Children very much focus on the now and how things make them feel in the moment.
But it’s important to try to encourage healthy habits by helping them understand how what they do now can affect their body down the road. You can teach them that our bodies change as we get older, and that’s okay — older bodies are beautiful too — but it’s important to practice preventative healthcare to make sure you stay as healthy as possible as you age.
This can be helpful not only in teaching them more about body image, but it can also help them understand why it’s necessary to do things like take care of their dental health and go to the doctor for check-ups.
Plan positive body image activities
Kids are often visual learners, so games and activities that help promote self-esteem and good body image are helpful. This can include journaling about the things they like about themselves and making lists or collages of the different things that make people different but still beautiful. Or you can have them draw a self-portrait that points out the things they like about their body and why they are thankful for them.
Your child’s health should always be a top priority. This includes their physical health as well as their mental health and how they think about their body. When children have a healthier body image overall, they will likely treat their own body better and they will be kinder to others, which can help them inspire other children to have a healthier body image too.
Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and search for the truth. You can find more of her writing on her Contently.