Studies show that by the time kids reach pre-adolescence “tween” years, 40% of girls consider themselves overweight. 45% of boys and girls in grades 3-6 want to be thinner. And 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.
Body positivity is a sensitive topic to address with children. Their experiences with self-esteem and body image are often fraught with mixed messages from their social environment and media. But with support from parents and loved ones, it can be achieved.
We’ve compiled 7 strategies to help you not only set the stage for your kids to have a positive and healthy experience with their bodies, but address any concerns or worries that do come up.
1. Do Unto Others As You Would Do For Your Child
Kids learn not only from how you talk about yourself, but also from the way you speak about others. Comments like “They look too skinny” about others can send them mixed messages and derail your efforts.
2. Focus on Abilities, Not Looks
Our bodies are beautiful and strong, and have endless capabilities. Celebrate that in your child! If they’ve accomplished something great, focus on what they’ve achieved and how they felt about it.
3. “Fat” Isn’t Necessarily “Bad”
It’s important to recognize and show our children that one size doesn’t fit all bodies. Being thin isn’t the priority, being healthy is.
4. Recognize Your Own Baggage
Before opening a dialogue, it’s important to self reflect and own the background that you’re coming to the conversation with. Your feelings surrounding and experiences involving your own body image affect how you discuss the subject with your child.
5. Be Open And Listen
A simple, yet incredibly important tip. Sometimes, more than lessons or knowledge, kids need a safe place to come to when they’re struggling. Being that place and being open to whatever they have to say will give you insight into their thoughts, which will better help you understand the actual problem that needs to be addressed.
Listening doesn’t have to be passive. Here are a couple of strategies to help you actively listen and engage.
6. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Give them a platform to share and open up. Using What, How, When, and Where questions are all great ways to explore the discussion without putting them on the spot or making them feel judged for sharing.
“What’s been making you feel bad?”
7. Use Their Language
Specific terms can be a minefield to navigate in a discussion about body image. Keep it simple, and use the language you hear. If they say they’ve been called chubby, use chubby instead of fat. This way, you won’t be labelling them, and they will feel heard.
These tips are a good starting place, but they aren’t the only methods out there to encourage and support positive body image and self-esteem. If you would like more resources and ideas, you can check out the following list of links: