4 Tips to Raising a Body Positive Child
Your body is your home for the rest of your life. Just like how we put fresh flowers, welcome mats and seasonal decorations in our homes to make it more cozy, we all deserve to find comfort, relaxation and support within ourselves. It is easy to feel inadequate in a world where we are constantly told that we could and should be better. Research has shown that children as young as five years old have expressed unhappiness and dissatisfaction about their bodies. The way we talk about exercise, food and body image can have a substantial impact on how children view themselves. It’s never too early to build a healthy body image. Nobody feels wonderful every second of the day, but respecting your body is possible.
Not sure where to start? You aren’t alone! Here are four ways that you can promote body positivity in your household.
Reframing Physical Activity
Feeling strong while having fun is an empowering aspect of fitness. Exercise can easily become resented if a child is forced to participate in activities they don’t like. Every child (and adult) deserves to find movement that feels good and brings genuine enjoyment. Discovering connection, having personal choice, and feeling successful are all powerful motivators. Alternatively, engaging in stress amplifying, depleting, forced activities teaches a child to ignore their body’s wants and needs. We all have different forms of movement that speak to us. Some children thrive in team sports, while other children are more individualistic. Both are wonderful options!
Have a child who loves to take pictures? Try out this photo scavenger hunt! If going outside isn’t an option, indoor fitness challenges and imaginative play are great ways to get the body moving.
Focus on Feel and Function
A common misconception is that you can measure a person’s health status by weight and appearance alone. Many of us experienced and internalized this concept, letting it infiltrate our lives and the way we treat others. Bodies naturally come in all different shapes and sizes. Having a narrow focus on body size can hold children back from wellbeing. There are people at their smallest weight who are practicing unhealthy habits, and people at their heaviest weight that are healthier than ever. If you are concerned about your child’s health, try to focus and celebrate behavior changes vs. numbers on the scale. Setting family health goals can be a great way to bond and have fun with each other without anyone feeling singled out.
Be a Body Positive Role Model
Children learn how to care and love their bodies from listening to and mirroring the adults around them. If children hear adults engage in negative self-talk, it can influence the way they see themselves. Learning to love your body will help your child love theirs. Check-in with yourself. How is your relationship with your body? Your body deserves appreciation and kindness just like your children’s bodies do. Practice saying nice things about your physical and non-physical attributes. Talk about and celebrate the natural diversity of all people.
Cultivate A Healthy Relationship With Food
Food is meant to be enjoyed, not demonized. Making all food choices emotionally equal, without placing shame or judgement can help reduce feelings of guilt at the dinner table. No food is bad. We aren’t worth any more or any less based on what we eat, nor do we need to “earn” our calories. Ironically, the more forbidden we make certain foods, the more we crave them! Our bodies deserve to be fed in a way that is not self-shaming and inflexible. Removing moralistic value to food and having an all-foods-fit approach to nutrition can help you and your little one make peace with food. You can read more on mealtime positivity here.