Raise your hand if you want your children to feel good in their skin — so that you don’t have to worry about them having the same relationship with their body and with food that you once did, or still do.
Navigating body image can be like walking a tightrope for parents. There is a fine line between wanting to protect your kiddos fromsuffering with body image issues — and wanting your kids to feel good in their bodies.
As children, we learn our parents’ body beliefs through their behaviors. When my mom held her stomach after a yummy meal of mashed potatoes with butter, chops, and delicious sides, I knew she thought she shouldn’t have eaten that. When my dad shook his head in disappointment at the neighbor’s “fat” new bride, I knew I dare not be fat, or I would be deemed unfit for marriage (and, therefore, love).
Our body size goes hand in hand with food; many of us, who want to look a certain way, make food the enemy.
What are you teaching your kids?
It is no surprise that we are also teaching our children our own body beliefs through the labels, rules, and rewards we use regarding food — all in the name of protection. Here are some examples of messages we might share:
- Chocolate is “bad” and broccoli is “good”
- If you finish your homework, you can have a treat
- Don’t eat that or you’ll get chubby
In addition, the media continues to taunt us with unrealistic body images — seen as the measure of true “beauty.” And, here’s the kicker: only five percent of Americans are naturally born with these “ideal” genetic components. Secretly, we may want our kids to be in that five percent because we know how it feels when we are not. But the truth be told, we may be missing the point here.
These messages can hurt our kids
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to feel good in our bodies. What’s wrong is a culture saying that in order to feel good you have to be a certain body size. You can see the pain in our kids:
- Childhood obesity is the number one health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking
- Children as young as 5 are already expressing a desire for a body that is thinner
- Eighty-one percent of ten-year-olds are afraid of being “fat”
- Over 50 percent of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors
- Ninety-one percent of women surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting
And sadly, the more we promote fitness, body perfection and fighting “fat,” the more we spiral into shame, exclusion, and low self-image when our bodies don’t measure up. It’s a mess.
You can teach your child about body love!
Dear parents, here are my three tips for you: