7 Tips for Body-Positive Parenting
We all want what is best for our children. That’s a given. Sometimes we say and do things that affect our children and adolescents in ways that we don’t realize, though. Our society is obsessed with looks, exercise, and fad diets and there’s no way of escaping it with all of the technology we are exposed to every day. It’s our duty as parents to help our kids see through the haze of diet culture propaganda and Instagram filters and to find the light that leads to self-love and appreciation.
Here are seven tips for raising kids who love themselves just the way they are...
- No body shaming of yourself or others. EVER. Kids really are like sponges, and when they see or hear you shaming yourself for a couple of pounds that you may have gained or because you don’t love a certain part of your body, they are absorbing that negative talk. We aren’t born caring about cellulite or weight; we learn it. And it’s really hard to unlearn. So, drop the body bashing and use uplifting self-talk in front of your children. In fact, focus on positive qualities that have nothing to do with looks. And don’t praise people for their looks either; it creates an ideal in your child’s head of what he or she “should” look like.
- Don’t forget the young men. Boys have insecurities about their looks just as much as girls do. As a society we tend to focus on girls and their looks and their self-esteem, but their male counter parts need support as well. If you have a son, take time to assess his self-esteem and listen to how he talks about himself. Boys need uplifting attention too!
- No Weight Watchers Meetings or any other diet groups. Please. If you find them helpful and supportive for yourself that’s great, but it’s not a place for kids. It teaches them food rules and counting and restriction. We want our kids to continue being Intuitive Eaters and to listen to their bodies while eating foods that bring them pleasure as well as nutrition, not to focus on points or calories.
- Let your kids have autonomy over their food choices. There aren’t “good” or “bad” foods, and when we make our kids eat food that they don’t want to eat, or we refuse to let them eat something they want to, we are essentially shaming them for their choices and creating a sense of guilt. All of this will lead to them creating food rules and potentially begin restricting “fun foods.” Let them make their own choices and find the positives in all foods. For instance, ice cream is a great source of protein and calcium!
- Focus on function. Every part of our body has a purpose, and the purpose has nothing to do with helping us to look good in a bikini. If you hear your child speaking negatively about a body part, challenge them to think of the function of that body part. Here’s an example: if you hear your child speaking negatively about their legs, help them to bring focus on the fact that those legs help them to ride their bike, walk them to their friend’s house, drive the car, and jump up and down when they are excited.
- Eat together. Unfortunately, there are a lot of self-esteem issues out there. Much of that plays out in food because we are taught that if we eat certain things, it will affect the way we look in a negative manner. Many people try to solve this with dieting and restriction. Eating together and focusing on how great foods taste and showing appreciation for the energy it provides the body is a great way to foster positive feelings around food and, in turn, promote self-esteem and body-positive thinking. It has also been proven that children and teens who eat at the table with their family make more nutritious choices.
- Follow body-positive people on social media. Body-positivity is taking the world by storm right now, especially on social media. Sit with your kids and seek out body-positive Instagram and Facebook accounts, as well as podcasts. The more we interact with our kids and show them what is valuable to us, the more they take on those values for themselves.
There you have it: Body-Positive Parenting 101. And you didn’t even have to pay a lofty tuition cost! Pick one or two of the tips to start focusing on today and share with your friends. You’ll be amazed at how uplifting it is, not only for your child’s body image, but for yours as well.