If you ask a tall adult about their childhood, you’ll most likely hear stories about body image issues and/or complicated relationships with food, which were often commented on by close family members. We try to break down the generational trauma by become better role models for our children since we have seen the impacts with our own eyes.
We spoke to a few experts, doctors, and put together a list of tips for raising your kids to be body positive, or at least body neutral. It can also be useful if you are a parent, relative or even a friend of people who have children and are looking for some advice for yourself!
6 tips for raising your kids (and yourself) in a body-positive environment
1. Lead by example
Surely we all have memories of our parents’ relationship with their own bodies. Whether it’s negative self-talk, comments others have made to them, or the way they dress to hide certain parts of their body. Children are like little sponges and soak up all the information around them!
We asked @thatfatdoctor, Doctor of Clinical Psychology, their views on how parenting behavior affects children. Katelyn states, “Children discover the world by observing their parents. If they see a parent examining their body in the mirror, they learn to examine their body in the mirror. If a tutor is hyper-focused on food, they will learn to judge themselves as if food has a morality and what they eat determines their self-worth. It’s a slippery slope that’s too easily avoided – model love, tolerance and acceptance instead.
One of the best ways to raise them in a body-positive environment is to be aware of the things you say about your own body. Even if there are parts of yourself that you are still working to love, put a positive spin on them! Recognize that all bodies are different and that is what creates beauty.
2. Talk about media representation
It is important to talk to children, especially teenagers, about lack of diverse body representation on TV, in movies, in magazines and on social media. If they don’t see themselves reflected in the media they consume, it’s important for them to know that doesn’t mean their body isn’t normal.
Look for body-positive influencers and positive role models for them – those who show off diverse, unfiltered bodies and how beautiful they look!
Everything, images AND videos, can be altered to the point that the bodies don’t even look real anymore. Seeing “flawless” airbrushed and mostly skinny bodies only leads kids to have unrealistic expectations of their own bodies. It is essential to have the assurance that their body is perfect for them.
3. Attitudes towards physical activities
It’s a difficult concept for adults to understand, because it’s probably not how we grew up. Physical activity should be a celebration of movementA.K.A happy movement. It should be something you enjoy and feel good about. It should never be used as a punishment or presented as just a way to lose weight or change your body shape.
Help them find something that suits them. Whether it’s sports, dancing, walking, yoga or skating, it’s important for children to understand that physical activity can improve their mood and well-being. sleepcan be something you do socially with friends or alone, and can be fun!
4. Healthy relationships with food
Many dietitians and nutritionists address this topic specifically on social media, as many of us have grown up with messy relationships with food. Erica MS, RDNwho passes by @listennutrition on TikTok is one such dietitian. She declares “One way to help children develop a positive relationship with food is to teach them that there are no ‘bad’ foods. Instead, we can teach them that foods contain different nutrients and make us feel differently when we eat them.
Erica continues, “When children think of food in moralistic terms like ‘good’ and ‘bad’, it can trigger guilt and disordered eating behaviors. We can get the message across that all foods provide our bodies with energy and that it’s okay to incorporate fun foods and nutrient dense foods into a healthy lifestyle – it doesn’t have to be whether it’s all or nothing.
Whether you grew up in a “clean your plate” household or lived with a “mom almond», much of our eating habits as adults were formed when we were children. To combat this cycle, as Erica mentioned, it’s a good idea to discuss the importance of eating the nutrients needed to maintain energy, but also to emphasize that it’s okay to stop eating. when you are full. Plates don’t need to be clean if half your plate fills you up.
Another tip recommended by many dietitians and nutritionists is to have dessert already on the plate. This helps children view different types of food in the same way. If sweets are something that is denied, it could lead to adulthood where that’s all they want to eat since they are now in control.
5. Limit body-focused comments
Part of growing up is learning about yourself and unfortunately some of that learning comes from outside sources and is not always good for the body. Try to focus praise on internal attributes.
“You are so clever!”
“You are so nice!”
“You have a great sense of humor!”
Self-esteem is very important during the formative years and focusing on a child’s inner attributes or talents will go a long way in developing them.
6. Correct erroneous information
Our children have so many interactions with other people outside of their family. Whether teachers, their friends, their teammates, they will inevitably absorb information that is completely contrary to Health at all sizes model.
If they come home saying things that differ from what you’ve taught them in the past, gently redirect them. For example, explain that healthy habits are important and that you cannot tell a person’s health from their weight.
The best thing you can do for a child is to express how much you love them and accept them unconditionally. Helping them feel confident can be a lasting lesson in positive body image and even how they perceive others.