Research shows us that more than 80% of 10 year old's are afraid of being fat. We also know that by the age of 6, girls especially, start to express concerns about their shape, weight and size.
We know certain things that contribute to a poor body image such as unrealistic expectations from the media, Photoshop, social media and so on. However I think it's important to talk about what we can do as parents to help foster a positive body image in our children.
1. Be open with your kids about diet culture
It's unrealistic to shelter your children from this 60 billion industry so instead have an open discussion about how media has unrealistic expectations. Discuss with them how this sometimes makes people feel like they're not enough. Be open and honest and explore how your kids feel about the diet industry and how these messages make them feel. Doing this on a regular basis will help our kiddos know it's safe to talk about and also that it's okay to be effected by it.
2. Stop the diet and weight loss talk
This is where as parents it is SO important to do your own work. If you are talking about "being on a diet" "needing to go on a diet" or "I'm not allowed to eat that because i'm on a diet" you are sending the message to your child that in order to feel worth we need to look a certain way. According to your child, you walk on water. You are the first person they look up to and the first person they learn from. When their perfect mama declares she needs to go on a diet the seed is planted that they are not good enough as they are and their body needs to be morphed into a certain size.
3. Talk about size diversity
Openly discuss how people are all different shapes, sizes and colors and celebrate it! There is no one way to look. Health doesn't depend on a size or shape but truly on how we feel and how we nourish our bodies.
4. Don't compliment your child on their size, shape or weight
When we make comments to our children about how thin they are it puts an unrealistic expectation on them. Bodies are suppose to change over time. Children are suppose to gain weight through puberty. While children are growing their bodies and looks are going to be changing on a regular basis. Instead compliment your child on how good of a friend they are. Talk to them about their values, dreams and goals. Openly discuss what things they think make a kind person. There are SO many more important things to talk about other than size and shape.
5. Create healthy habits together
Eat nourishing foods. Enjoy treats. Learn to listen to your body for its hunger and fullness cues. Honor those cues. Move your body regularly because it feels good. Say positive things about yourself. Write out a gratitude list.
I strongly believe a positive body image begins in the home. It begins with us. It begins with the messages that over time, our children slowly start to pick up on a believe. Nobody is born hating their bodies. It's a learned process. If we can begin implementing healthy self talk within our families we will be able to watch a revolution unfold.
Hanna Kuyper is a wife, a mom and a lover of all things outdoors. She has owned a women only wellness studio, sat on the board of a non profit dedicated to eating disorder and body image awareness and has volunteered as a mentor for girls in school. Hanna has a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in eating disorders and body image. She is a currently a virtual body image and recovery coach at The Eating Disorder Center.