Today I heard some alarming and painful statistics about our kids and body image:
I know by now that we as a society "know" that poor body image, depression, and eating disorders are at an all-time high. But, I still struggle with hearing statistics that are alarmingly suggesting we still are not really doing anything about it.
So, here are my top 5 ways to helping your kids grow up with a healthier relationship with themselves, their bodies, their peers, and with food.
1. Don't focus on a girl's (or boy's) looks when meeting or complimenting them.
How many times do you hear "your daughter is so pretty!"? It happened to us again just this morning right after listening to the podcast going over these statistics (above). Instead of focusing on appearances, try focusing on other attributes, like, "You are so smart!" or "You sure know how to have fun!" By focusing on non-physical qualities, we will teach our children that they are more than what people see.
2. Do not pinch yourself, complain you are fat, groan at the scale, discuss food you can't eat because you are trying to diet, etc., in front of your children.
Well, try not to do it at all, really, but especially in front of your kids. My daughter at 16 months was already trying to stand on the scale, because she'd see me or my husband check it. The very first time I saw her do that, I made sure to joyously praise how awesome she was, and how she was growing into a healthy, happy little girl. Kids watch, even when you think they are not - so if they see or hear you complaining about your body, they will learn to do the same.
Note, if you ARE trying to lose weight, emphasize the health behind it. "Mommy is eating more salad because she wants to be strong and healthy!" Or, "I am full, my tummy is happy, I do not need to finish the food on my plate!" The fact that children mirror us, and absorb info like sponges, can be a phenomenal asset when they see us performing healthy behaviors!
3. Appreciate your body, often and frequently.
Ok, but didn't I just say NOT to talk so much about your body? True, we do not want to overemphasize that our bodies are the most important things in our life, but we also don't want to pretend they don't exist. Developing a healthy relationship with your body means that you aren't idolizing it, but you also aren't neglecting it. Appreciating your body for the things it allows you to do is one of the best ways to show self-love. Some examples you can say to your little one:
I appreciate my legs for letting me run and play with you!
I appreciate my arms for letting me hug you!
I appreciate these stretch marks because they remind me that at one point, I carried you!
I appreciate my body because it takes care of me, so I can take care of you!
God gave us each a temple - it is not ours, we are simply loaning it, but we must care for it while we are here [1 Cor 16:19-20]. Teach your children to care for and appreciate their temples, too.
4. Be careful of how you talk about yourself or others in front of your children.
Again, talking about others is something we shouldn't be doing at all, but be especially mindful in front of your kiddos. Mentioning to your husband on the car ride home from a birthday party that your friend has gained some weight since the last time you saw her - not okay. It will teach your daughter (kids) that the integrity of a friendship doesn't matter, especially if one of the friends is overweight. Don't be the bully - or you'll raise the bully.
5. Let your children see you, and participate in, praying.
When our kids see us inviting God into our lives, especially when we are struggling or in pain, it can help them learn a healthy and positive outlet for stress. If you are dealing with low self-esteem, take it to God and allow your child to witness the process!
Our future relies on us. If we want a better world for our children, we need to take the responsibility to raise our children in a resilient, positive way. A lot of times, this means we need to go to work on ourselves. If you're still struggling, consider joining our community for positivity, support, and encouragement. You are not alone, you are loved, and you matter.