Once the new school supplies have been purchased, the new teachers have been identified and the new classrooms have been located; let’s remember that our kids are still navigating some tough stuff in their everyday lives and in the halls of their school buildings.
Although I work with females on reconstructing healthy body image on a regular basis, I had hoped I still had a few years before negative body talk entered my daughter’s vernacular.
Unfortunately, I became aware of it last year, during my daughter’s second grade year, after my daughter entered into a conversation with other second grade girls comparing the size of their bottoms. My daughter informed me that she had been told that he backside was “big.” Somehow this was also associated with “bad.” She then began body checking in the mirror assessing the size of her backside, her stomach and her legs. My heart broke.
There are so many external messages telling our daughter’s that they will be assessed by the size of their body parts and teaching them to assess themselves with this same measure. I’m not a fan of this for my daughter. Thus, a quick list of everyday tips to help support healthy body image in all of our girls:
1. Model Healthy Body Image: Girls learn what it means to be a woman by watching other women around them- especially their moms.
Do your best to accept complements.
Discuss your interests and talents. When you are focusing on your physical appearance, celebrate it!
2. Avoid Body Focused Magazines and Media: I think most of us notice that advertising generally involves very slim, attractive women attached to a product. Media associates physical thinness with happiness, success, love, etc. It is important for us to teach our children that this is not the equation. Happiness, success and love come in all shapes, colors and sizes! (Feel free to discuss airbrushing!)
3. Pay attention to your language: Pay attention to your language around food and eating behaviors (avoiding “good” and “bad” and, instead, focusing on education surrounding nutrition and what bodies need to be “healthy”.) Pay attention to what you say about other girls and women. Attempt to focus on their talents and strengths and not their physical appearance.
4. Talk to your kids about the beauty of diversity: Peer pressure to look a certain way is a danger to healthy body image. Educate children about the world…that there are people all over the world that look differently and that this diversity is a beautiful thing for a thriving world.
5. Help girls identify with positive influences: Supporting girls in their schoolwork, sports and hobbies helps them create an identity based on things other than their physical appearance. Helping girls engage activities that assist them in deriving pride and pleasure boosts self-esteem.
*Keep in mind that the costumes worn for all of these activities are not the point of the activities themselves.
Bree Emery, August 2017
If you’re interested in reading more about how to talk to your children about difficult things, read this article.