Setting a healthy example for our children can feel (and usually is) a lot more difficult than it sounds. We all want to raise healthy, happy kids, but how do we shield them from a society that is trying to spoon feed them an unrealistic idea of what's considered an acceptable or ideal or "perfect" body? The culture we raise or children is constantly telling those children to hate themselves and their bodies, so raising healthy, happy kids is no cake walk. Thankfully there are things you can do to teach your kids about body positivity that will help them withstand the constant pressures that will inevitably seep into their lives and attempt to convince them that they're lacking.
Building a body positive home is crucial in today's world. Mainstream media continues to push the same tired and dated idea of the "ideal body" or "ideal standard of beauty" every chance they get, and though we've come a long way in terms of body positivity and representing different body types and celebrating those differences, based on the images that are constantly being hailed as "perfect," we still (unfortunately) have a long way to go.
Part of raging against this unrealistic machine that is our modern day society is raising our children to be more body positive. It all starts at home, with self love, a healthy example, and an open minded, accepting attitude. However, creating a body positive environment, like raising happy and healthy kids, isn't as simple as it sounds. Still, we've got to start somewhere so, with that said, here are eight ways to teach your kids about body positivity.
Expose Them To Diverse Bodies
By exposing our children to a wide array of body types, they will be less likely to ever question the differences between them. While the media is getting better (kind of) about being inclusive in their programming, featuring characters of different genders, races, backgrounds, and bodies, we've still got a long way to go. The characters on most television programs and in most movies are painfully common, which could leave our children with the hurtful impression that one body type is "normal," while the rest are "weird." If we expose our children to the programs that do feature characters of different sizes and shapes, they will be more likely to embrace the differences, rather than question them.
Teach Them About All The Amazing Things Their Bodies Can Do
Rather than focusing on the way their body looks, we need to be teaching children to focus on what their bodies are capable of doing. Whether it's growing or breastfeeding or creating a baby or doing back flips or climbing a mountain or carrying a smart brain with thoughts and feelings; teaching them that their bodies are capable of truly amazing things puts body appearances into perspective. In the end, how someone views your body doesn't matter. Like, at all.
Putting more emphasis on how our bodies are able to function and grow and thrive when we treat them properly is a good way to encourage them to be proud of their body's accomplishments, and it could also lead to a more healthy lifestyle in the future.
Don't Talk Negatively About Your Own Body, Even Jokingly
It's hard to not beat ourselves up sometimes, because we're all products of the same skewed society, but we've got to try for the sake of our children. Try not to talk down about your own body, even jokingly, in front of them. They will see that you're not satisfied with the way you look, and will begin to focus on the same irrelevant things you're focusing on when they see you standing in the mirror, pinching your skin and looking disappointed in what you see. To them, you're perfect, and they love you for a thousand different reasons that have nothing to do with the way you look. Just remember that they don't see what you see, until you point it out.
Discourage Teasing Someone For Their Looks
Making fun of someone because of the way they look isn't OK. Ever. Even while Donald Trump, who I strongly advocate against, is jabbering on TV, I try my best not to insult his hair out loud and in front of my children. I don't want my children to think that his physical appearance has anything to do with my opinion of him, or anyone else for that matter. I don't shy away from sharing my opinion about the Republican nominee, but when I do, it's based solely on his character (or lack thereof), as it should be.
Teach Them That Differences Are A Good Thing
Though we all may look different, we're all made the same. Just because people might appear different on the outside, doesn't mean that we don't all have or experience the same feelings on the inside. We don't need to teach our children to be colorblind, or blind to any other physical differences between themselves and others. Differences are a good thing. Differences are what make us unique. By teaching our children to embrace the many differences between varying bodies, we're encouraging them to be open minded in other aspects of their lives as well. There is no right or wrong way to look, but there is a right or wrong way to act.
Set A Healthy Example
You don't have to have a rock hard set of abs to be capable of setting an example of healthy living to your children. You also don't have to go to the gym every day or eat a completely organic diet to set a healthy example. Healthy living isn't about looking good, but rather feeling good. When we eat foods that nourish our bodies, and when we do things like yoga or pilates, or even just walking, we're teaching our children that taking care of our bodies is important. No matter what size or shape we are, we can still teach our kids how to treat their bodies well.
Let your kids see you complimenting other people on things that have nothing to do with their body. If your kids see you telling someone that they're kind or helpful or thoughtful, they will think that those are things that they should be, too. The world needs more people striving for kindness, not physical perfection.
Compliment Them On Something Other Than The Way They Look
There's nothing wrong with telling someone that they're pretty or strong, but focusing on something that isn't external will help to teach a child that their worth doesn't lie solely in their outward appearance (or at all, really). By telling a child that they're smart or creative or kind, you're encouraging them to continue to strive to be all of those things, because they like the ways it feels when their behavior is praised. If you're constantly telling little girls that they're pretty, they're more likely to focus on how they look, rather than how they act, and we're all well aware by now that just because someone is pretty on the outside, doesn't mean that they aren't ugly on the inside.
Let's raise girls and boys that are pretty on the inside, and let's stop teaching them that their worth as a person has anything to do with their outer appearance.