How can we raise our children to be comfortable in their bodies when weight and weight shaming is an ever-present theme in our society? Below are some suggestions to help you help your child navigate their relationship with food and their unique body types.
1. Model acceptance in yourself.
2. Don’t make food a battleground.
3. Focus on health as opposed to weight.
4. Don’t shy away from talking to your kids about bodies and body parts.
5. Don’t comment on your kids weight or others’ weight.
6. Teach kids about their bodies from the inside – out.
- Model acceptance in yourself
Our kids are like sponges, and when they observe us being critical of our own bodies they are more likely to internalize this negative attitude and become critical of their own shapes and sizes. If we model love and acceptance toward our flaws, our children will in turn be more likely to show the same love for themselves. Since our children share our genetics, they may even grow-up to have our similar shapes as us thus making it even more important to exemplify an attitude of love and acceptance towards our bodies.
- Don’t make food a battleground.
Food should be a way of bringing people together, sharing an experience and enjoying pleasurable tastes. If we create an environment of peace and pleasure around food experiences than in turn our children will associate eating as an enjoyable time.
- Focus on health as opposed to weight.
If you’re concerned about your child’s health, set family goals that encourage healthy behavior and that don’t single your child out. Include going on walks with the family after dinner or incorporate more colorful fruits and vegetables into your family meals in order to put a fun spin on good nourishment.
- Don’t shy away from talking to your kids about bodies and body parts.
If we can speak honestly to our children about bodies then we can help them to debunk any rumors that they may hear about bodies from their peers. Its important for us as parents to emphasize to our children that bodies come in different shapes and sizes and to be conscious of the tone that we use when describing different body parts. In being conscious of our tone and descriptions, we may help our children to avoid an attitude of shame about bodies in the future.
- Don’t comment on your kids weight or others’ weight.
Talking to your kids about their weight or other’s weight contributes to a culture of comparisons. Talking about weight only reinforces an attitude of thinness as opposed to health and happiness.
- Teach kids about their bodies from the inside – out.
Teach your child to view his/her body based on how it feels as opposed to how it looks. For example, speak to your kids about how their legs allow them to run around, play and have fun or how their fingers feel when touching something gooey. Bring a different kind of attention to your child’s experience of how their body works.
Marilee Hartling RN, MFT | Infant & Child Development Specialist | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.