5 Ways to Help Kids with Confidence and Body Image
Housewife Hustle started as a mom blog, and while I love parenting and discussing it, I feel like my mommy posts need to happen more. What seems to take up the biggest chunk of my writing and social media presence is body image. If you’re a regular at HH, you know that I can talk about self-love and body positivity until I’m blue in the face. I write about it every Wednesday, and I even wrote a book about it.
Today, I am combining my confidence and body image tips with parenting. Mental health matters, and eating disorders and poor body image are happening in kids at younger ages every year. This is not okay, but as parents, we can do our best to help build our littles ones’ body image up at home.
When I discuss body image, I do not mean weight loss. Pushing weight loss and weight management only furthers weight stigma and reinforces diet culture. I’m not hear to talk about feeding kids “good” foods, because I believe food associations can be ridiculously damaging. This is about teaching our kids that healthy looks different for everyone.
Teaching Kids about Body Acceptance
I have a 2 year old daughter and a 4 year old son. Neither have shown any signs of body image issues. That doesn’t mean I don’t work with them to fuel their confidence and self-love. When I was a kid, my family called me thick, curvy, chubby. In jest or not, I internalized it all.
I was always being compared to my mother. People would say we looked alike- except for our sizes. My mom is and has always been very petite, and when I was growing up, I was considered average. At least that’s what I thought. I wore jean sizes 5-8 through most of my teen years, but I was still bullied and called fat.
At first, I brushed off the negative comments. After a while, the comments get under your skin. When I developed my eating disorder, my family thought I was just watching my weight. I went on to deal with it for years, and I almost lost my battle.
Luckily, I was able to get help and begin recovery. I have been in recovery for a little over 6 years. Being a mom makes me want to advocate for body image even more. I don’t want to even think about the possibility of my kids feeling like they aren’t worthy of confidence because of society.
Weight stigma, diet culture, and ideal standards are things that need to go, because they are toxic and harmful. I know it’s impossible to keep my kids away from what’s out there, but I can do my damnedest to build up their confidence, body image, and self-love.
I actually had a family member try to tease my son and call him a ” fat little chunk” to his face this past Easter. I don’t think I’ve balled my fists up so quickly. You better believe this momma bear went off, and since then, I’ve been working with my little ones on confidence and how they view their bodies.
I’ve written about how we normalize nakedness in our house, and I believe education is the best weapon when society tries to pit our minds and bodies against each other. When my kids first started noticing my soft belly and stretch marks, they would jiggle it. Honestly, it brought tears to my eyes, but then, I realized it was a teachable moment.
I took that moment to explain about bodies coming in all shapes, sizes, and colors. I expressed that all bodies are beautiful, and those differences add to that beauty even more. Now, my kids compliment themselves and me and my husband often. They say we are all beautiful, and it makes me proud.
5 Tips For Growing Kids’ Confidence and Body Image
Teaching kids about their bodies and how to accept and appreciate their bodies isn’t as complicated as it might seem. Let’s help the younger generation grow up to be confident, because all bodies are beautiful.
1. Be a body positive role model as a parent.
If your kids see you calling your body names or putting yourself down, that can affect them. I once heard a little girl tell a waitress that her and her mommy “wanted salads for lunch, so they wouldn’t get fat.” It brought me to tears even though I didn’t know them personally.
How we talk to ourselves is noticed by our kids, and they mimic everything because that’s how they learn. Also, using fat-phobic phrases can be very damaging. Growing up, there was nothing worse than a woman gaining weight in my family, because it was teased and pointed out right away. That’s not the type of message we need to send to our kids.
If you don’t practice self-love and aren’t kind to your body, your kids can pick up on that and do the same. If you need to work on your own body image, now is the time. We all deserve to be confident in ourselves and our bodies- parents and children.
2. Teach your child about self-acceptance.
Accepting ourselves just as we are can be a challenge, but trying to change ourselves for the approval of others is a sad and unhealthy way to live. Body acceptance boosts our overall confidence, and it’s good for our mental health. We are all unique, and we should not only celebrate our uniqueness but teach our kids to accept and celebrate themselves as well.
It’s our job to teach our little ones that worth isn’t defined by weight, and there are so many important parts of life we don’t want to miss out on because we were obsessed with weight. Teaching body acceptance can decrease bullying and judgment. It can also help prevent our kids from having disordered and harmful eating habits.
3. Talk to your kids about perfection and impossible standards.
I’m so thankful that a lot of companies are publishing unedited images, because airbrushing can be damaging to the younger generation. We need to teach our kids that perfection does not exist, and chasing those “perfect” qualities can be extremely dangerous and harmful.
Rather than focusing on an impossible ideal, we should embrace body differences, because bodies come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. We need to teach kids that not only are these differences real, but they are beautiful because of the diversity.
4. Explain gratitude, and teach kids about their bodies capabilities.
Gratitude helped me so much when I couldn’t see the beauty of my body. Focusing on my body’s strengths and capabilities helped me to grow my appreciation for it, and that appreciation eventually turned into love.
Bodies are resilient and magical. We should be teaching our kids all of the reasons that bodies are wonderful, so if they have doubts about their own bodies, they can turnaround any negative views they may have about themselves.
It’s about relabeling “flaws.” I hated my arms growing up and was teased for having bigger arms, but these arms do pretty much everything for me. They are strong and they pull me up when I need it. Shifting our perspectives on how we view our bodies like that can do so much for our confidence, and if we teach our kids this technique, it could really benefit their body image.
5. Use positive language around food.
With my family, food is everything. We only all gather together when there are holidays and feasts, but I also grew up terrified of certain foods. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so we ate a lot of casseroles and food that is usually seen as “bad.”
I carried negative food associations with me until this last year, and those associations are what is bad, not the food. I will never forget telling my mom I wanted to “watch my weight” in junior high. She helped me pick out rice cakes and low fat foods for my lunches, and from all of that, my eating disorder grew even more.
I’m not blaming my family or anyone in particular, because when I came to them after my hospitalization and out-patient treatment, they were clueless that all of those associations, words, and actions fed into my body hatred and eating disorder. So, think about food associations and how you discuss food with your kids, because these types of discussions can change a lot more than we realize.
Confidence is for Every Body- Young and Old
We all deserve to love our bodies and feel confident, because size and weight have absolutely nothing to do with worth. We need to practice body acceptance and express the importance of self-love and body image to our little ones, because their mental health and how they view themselves is important.
With weight loss being shoved in our faces around every corner, it’s very challenging to accept and love our bodies. Hell, Weight Watchers even attempted to help kids become “healthy,” which was another fat-phobic and harmful ploy by diet culture. The idea that thin is the only way to be healthy is everywhere, but we need to be pushing that healthy looks different for every body.
From the time I was a preteen up until last year, I watched the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. I wanted to look like those women, so I would read about their workouts and diets. Once, I read about some of them who fasted and only did liquid diets right before the show, so I tried doing it. I tried everything I could to look like them, and it really hurt me. Recently, I just heard they are doing a collaboration with a brand and featuring a plus-size model for the first time.
The fashion show is canceled this year, and it’s most likely because of the backlash from one of their creators who is anti pretty much everything that involves diversity amongst bodies. Their views on ideal bodies and beauty outrages many, because it’s very damaging and toxic.
Having a plus-size model is at least a tippy toe in the right direction, because it sends a message, all be it a tiny one, that all bodies are beautiful. Hopefully they can pull their brand out of the body exclusion that it’s been built around, because inclusion can change a lot when it comes to how we view bodies. Inclusion can really benefit the younger generation.
We are slowly evolving as a society, so we need to prepare our little ones with the best tools- confidence, positive body image, and self-love. I wish I could go back to help that little girl that I once was, because I spent years hurting myself and being miserable. I will do my best to make sure my kids view their bodies and differences with love, appreciation, and hopefully adoration. All bodies are beautiful, and that’s a lesson that the next generation needs too.
I’d love to hear your thoughts as well as ways you encourage body acceptance in kids. Let’s be kind and start a discussion.