Body positivity is not a new topic. This message is being broadcasted louder and bolder on several public platforms. It’s incredible that there is such a strong focus on a topic that promotes health, wellness, and acceptance for ALL bodies, instead of past trends like attaining perfection, diet culture, and overhauling our “flaws.”
My purpose in writing this is to expand on body positivity as it pertains to children. This not only includes your own children (if that applies to you), but your nieces and nephews, your students, kids you babysit, etc. There are so many opportunities for teaching moments with children of all ages.
I’m a person who needs action steps when it comes to making changes. Because of this, I want to share with you FIVE effective practices that you can do to better nurture healthy body image in children/teens:
- Let them hear you speak positively about your own body.
- Leading by example is the greatest teaching tool. Don’t only avoid negative self-talk, but openly compliment and speak gratitude for your body in their presence. ex. I love that I have strong arms that can carry in all of these groceries! My wrinkles are signs of a life well-lived!
- Talk about how awesome bodies are–they are all strong and beautiful, and each one looks different.
- Our bodies are vessels that allow us to live life! Regardless of what they look like, what illnesses or disabilities they may have, or what age they are, our bodies can accomplish great things, share ideas, and experience joy.
- Compliment them on things unrelated to appearance.
- This is such a simple, yet powerful way to remind them that they are valuable in areas that aren’t always visual. Some general examples: I love how creative you are! You have such a light about you! You’re such a great friend to others! I notice how helpful you’ve been today.
- Encourage them to wear clothing that they feel comfortable in as a way to express themselves, not to get attention. **this would obviously not be an appropriate conversation in a teacher-student situation
- Teach that what we wear doesn’t define who we are, but it’s a fun way to celebrate our bodies and individuality! Regardless of how we choose to dress, our motivation should be self-expression, not a tactic to gain attention from others. Explain to them that dressing with comfort in mind is a way we can show kindness to ourselves.
- Remind them that they are WHOLE humans, not just body parts.
- This is especially important if the child tends to fixate on a specific part of themselves that they don’t like. Explain to them that no one’s body is objectively perfect. Rather than nit-pick individual pieces, appreciate the machine as a whole. Working towards a healthier body image doesn’t mean focusing MORE on your body, it means focusing MORE on everything else about you.
WE ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN OUR APPEARANCE. In fact, what we look like is the least interesting thing about us. I encourage you to engage in these conversations often. Don’t always wait for the hard days. Actively encourage the children and teens in your life to love and accept their bodies. Strive to be an example that they can look up to. By committing to these steps, you will find growth in your own body positivity. It’s truly a win-win.
You have the power to make a difference.