You know how the song goes:
‘If everybody looked the same, we’d get tired of looking at each other…’
So why is it that as a society, we want to try and make everybody look the same?
Research reveals that children as young as 3 learn to distrust their bodies and that if they don’t fit the ‘beauty ideal’, they should work on fixing it.
I experienced this first hand recently.
‘Mummy, I hate my freckles….’
My heart sank when my youngest son, Leo aged 7, said this to me after staring intently at himself in the mirror.
As much as I try to shield my kids from body negativity, we live in a culture that tells us to either accept our body or not.
So, how did I respond?
I said ‘Mummy loves you and you are beautiful. Do you think Mummy is beautiful?’
‘Mummy, you’re the beautifulist!’ he replied.
‘And do you trust Mummy?’
‘Of course I do, you are the best Mummy in the whole wide world.’
‘So, put your trust in people who love you and when they say you are beautiful, believe them because they will tell you the truth. Just like I trust you. I am beautiful and I have freckles too so we are beautiful together.’
The moral here?
I want people to embrace what makes them unique and love themselves and the people that support them.
Be confident in your own skin and learn to love yourself, even if it comes gradually.
And be your children’s primary source of amazing information in a world that is a little crazy.
I am sick and tired of parents being told that their and their childrens’ bodies should look a certain way.
The truth is that ALL bodies are meant to be different.
Just as we have different hair, skin, and eye colours and, we are supposed to have different body sizes and shapes.
We also cannot change what our genetics have determined for our weight any more than we can our height, it is the fundamental flaw with dieting – you cannot trick nature.
Diet culture has sneakily interfered with our parenting. We are led to believe that there is something wrong with our own bodies if they are not perfectly trim and toned and this message had seeped into parenting advice, into our healthcare system.
So, what can you do?
Well, first and foremost, you must begin to heal your own relationship with your body because no matter how much you try to pass on neutral messages, if you don’t believe them yourself, your children won’t either.
Practice things like:
Speaking kindly to yourself.
Putting your looks lower on your values list – is it really more important than your child’s mental wellbeing?
Take care of your body by getting enough sleep, programming in ‘you’ time, meditating, journaling etc.
Wear clothes that fit, get rid of that binbag of throwback 90’s gear gathering dust that has some strange power over you.
Be present in your body today, now, rather than constantly wishing it were different.
Eat in a way that honours your health but also allows you to ENJOY life .
Doing these things alone will begin to send positive messages and help your children to develop body confidence but in addition, with your children:
Celebrate body diversity.
Don’t talk about different body sizes/shapes being superior to others.
Send the message to your children that body changes and weight gain is normal.
Focus on what bodies DO for us, rather than what they look like.
I also regularly talk about my body in a positive way around my children, especially when I am working out. I will tell them that I love how it makes me feel strong enough to hold them tight when I am hugging them. It makes me so sad when I hear parents talk about needing to go for a run or lift some weights to lose weight – this is not how we want our children to view exercise. We want them to see it as something that is fun and to be enjoyed, that supports our health and strength, not something to be endured because we hate the body we are in!
Our children watch and listen to everything. It is our job to teach them how to love and respect their bodies. Yet it is far too easy to focus on the negatives about our appearance.
To try and flip this, I challenge you to say one positive thing about your body each day to your child.
‘I am so pleased my legs were strong enough to get me up that hill.’
‘I am grateful that I am fit enough to keep up with you, even when I am tired.’
‘I like this top I am wearing today because the colour suits me.’
‘It feels good to dance around the kitchen with you, I like how my body moves.’
Are you up for it I wonder?