When I held my son in my arms for the first time, I was bombarded by questions I didn't have the answers to. They were self-perpetuated, they came out of nowhere and they left me heavy with the weight of my new responsibility. I didn't know how I was going to teach him all the things I wanted to teach him; from big things like consent and body positivity, to little things like how to throw a football. There are things no one tells you about teaching body positivity or consent or the concept of death or, well, anything, and it's enough to make even the most seasoned of mothers (and especially us new ones) fraught with worry and an overwhelming sense of inadequacy.
Of course, when I was in the hospital holding my minute-old child, I also didn't realize that I didn't need to have all the answers, especially right away. Just like any other lesson I hope to one day teach my son, teaching body positivity is going to be a constant work-in-progress. I'm going to have to be diligent; I'm going to have to practice body positivity myself; I'm going to have to be kind to myself when things don't go according to plan and teaching something as simple as loving your body, proves not to be so simple at all.
Which is why, in the name of solidarity and in the hopes that teaching body positivity becomes one of those no-brainer parenting decisions (like making sure your kid is adequately fed and is safe and, you know, sleeps) here are a few things no one tells you about teaching your kid body positivity. The better prepared we are for the big life lessons, the easier they'll be to actually teach. Right?
You're Going To Be Judged
Because there are some common misconceptions (and honestly, downright falsities) associate with body positivity, there will be a few individuals quick to judge you for deciding to teach it to your children. Some people think that body positivity is somehow promoting unhealthy eating habits or laziness or [insert horrific and condescending assumption here], so don't be surprised if you're accused of fostering unhealthy habits for your children that can somehow endanger them in the future.
When this happens, I suggest rolling your eyes (although not too hard, because they will fall out of your head) and ignoring said individual. Honestly, who has the time to educate the ignorant masses when you have body positive, confident children to raise?
You'll Second Guess Yourself
I think it's safe to say that this is true of almost every parenting decision you'll make. While some decisions won't require a second thought, others will definitely leave you pondering and wondering and trying to figure out if you did, in fact, make the best decision. Now, if you'll let me be so bold as to say, when it comes to teaching your kid body positivity, you made the right decision. Trust me. You did.
You'll Spend A Lot Of Time Researching
There are a lot of terms to know and become familiar with, if you're going to teach your kid body positivity. It's important to know the difference between body positivity, body acceptance and body confidence. It's important that you know who identifies as such. For example, you shouldn't be quick to label a celebrity as "body positive" when they haven't outwardly identified with the movement.
You Need To Practice Body Positivity Yourself...
If you're going to teach body positivity to your kid, you have to practice it yourself. Kids, especially toddlers, learn from watching and observing, so even your most proactive body positive language will fall by the wayside when your kid also sees you being mean to yourself and your body. Practice what you preach, parents. Not only is it good for your kid to see you love and accept your body, it's good for you, too.
...Because So Much Of What You Teach Your Kids Will Be Unspoken
Words will only take you so far. Your actions will be something your kid(s) remember forever. I didn't realize just how closely my own kid was paying attention to me, until I saw him suck in his stomach while looking in the mirror (something I did a lot postpartum). I realized that if I was going to teach my kid to love and accept himself for exactly who he is, I needed to do the same. I had to set the example, because my words weren't going to stick to him the way my actions would (and are).
You'll Need To Continually Educate Yourself
I mean, this is just a good idea in life. We should always be constantly and consistently trying to better ourselves. As our society continues to evolve, there will be even more body positive movements (and movements like it) to familiarize ourselves with. There will be new terms to learn and ways to teach our children that every body is beautiful. Keep on educating yourself, yo. (But no, this doesn't mean you absolutely have to go to college because, um, hello ridiculous loans. No thank you.)
You're Going To Make Plenty Of Mistakes
You're going to mess up. Trust me. There are very few things I can guarantee you when it comes to parenthood, but the fact that you'll make mistakes is one of them. When you falter and either say something mean about your own body or made a comment you shouldn't have mad about someone else, take it as a learning opportunity and (please) cut yourself some slack. Making mistakes doesn't make you a bad parent, it just makes you a human being.
Life Will Hand You A Lot Of Negative Examples (Sadly)
Sadly, our culture will hand you plenty of horrific examples of what "not to do" when discussing bodies and/or teaching body positivity. I definitely won't go so far as to call these instances a blessing in disguise (because they're not) but I will say that you can use them to you and your kid's advantage. You can stand up for someone when you see them being shamed; you can point out someone who is a great example of body positivity in the face of endless judgement; you can turn our culture on itself, so you and your kid can (eventually) change it.
Sometimes, Your Lessons Won't Stick...
Don't be surprised if it takes a few times for some body positivity lessons to stick. You're up against a culture that tells our children they should inherently hate their bodies; so the odds aren't necessarily in your favor. It's OK if it takes a few tries for a concept to take hold. It isn't indicative of your parenting, trust me.
...So You'll Want To Give Up (Just, You Know, Don't)
And, of course, like almost every other difficult or taxing or frustrating or just important part of parenting, there will be moments when you want to give up. Maybe you feel defeated, because your body positive words are falling on ears that are being bombarded by messages promoting unrealistic beauty expectations. Maybe you're trying hard to be more body positive yourself, and it's proving more difficult than you originally thought. Either way, it's normal to want to give up. Just, please don't. Teaching your kid to love themselves and their bodies is, arguably, one of the most important and worthwhile lessons you'll ever teach.