Kids and Body Image

We saw this question from a Mom on Facebook and couldn’t wait to answer it: 

“My son is overweight. Ever since his friends have made light-hearted fat jokes directed at him, he looks in the mirror every chance he gets. He doesn’t say anything, but by his expression, I can tell he’s feeling insecure and upset. What can I say to him about his body?”

We think of body image issues being the territory of girls but boys feel it, too. I often have Moms telling me, “My daughter keeps saying she’s fat but she’s not! I tell her she looks great but she doesn’t believe me. What can I say that she might actually be able to hear?”

First let’s be clear about one thing, being overweight or “fat” is a completely separate issue from body image. Body image is how one thinks and feels about what they see in the mirror. Your body can be at peak performance and you can still think negative things to yourself, about yourself. When it comes to body image, it doesn’t matter what you weigh or how healthy your body is. The real issue is how healthy your MIND is when you think about your body.

Your kids didn’t come out of the womb saying please and thank you, you had to teach them and then repeat yourself A LOT. Teaching your children how to have good manners towards their reflection is just as important and worth taking the time to do.

It’s important to remember that the number one way kids learn, is imitation. Make sure they overhear you saying nice things about your body. Once I am sure that I am modeling a healthy body image for my kids, I would tell them this: 

“The longest relationship you will ever have is the one you have with your body. It’s your job to make sure it is a healthy and supportive relationship! Your body does a lot for you. It let’s you do things you love like playing with your friends and swimming in the pool. It makes you feel good when your back is being scratched and your feet are massaged. It pumps blood up to your brain and helps you learn. It sends you pain messages to tell you when you’ve played too rough or burned your skin or when it’s time to rest. Your body is the capsule that holds your amazing spirit, your personality, your emotions, your brain. Your body connects you with your family, even those you never met, because you have your grandpa’s eyes, and your aunt’s curly hair. Your body is magic. It brings you joy, connection, and allows you to help the world become a better place with your kindness, your attention to detail and your love of animals. It’s your God Pod, your temple. Your body is sacred ground. It is your job to give it attention, respect, and reverence.”

When talking to your kids about their bodies, you can start with these questions:

  • How does it feel when you look in the mirror and think the thought, “I’m too fat.” Do you feel heavy? Disappointed? Is that a respectful thing to say? Would you say it to someone you love?
  • If your pet could talk and said to you, “I should look different than I am”, what would you say to your pet?
  • How does it feel when someone makes a negative comment about your appearance?  What kind, supportive words can you say to your body when it’s feeling hurt?
  • Think about people you love who have “imperfect” bodies. Why do you love them? How much do looks have to do with your reasons for liking them?

Puberty is a time of physical, emotional and mental changes. It is the perfect time to teach your kids that they get to choose thoughts that feel good to them. Just because someone teases us, doesn’t mean we have to take it on and believe the negativity. We all have the power to decide what we want to think about, and when it comes to the relationship between you and your body, this is all on you. Rejecting your body will always cause stress. Love. Appreciation. Attention. These three things are always an option.

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