No matter the gender, the rules are the same. Accepting your body and being comfortable in your own skin benefits boys as much as it does girls. Up until recently, this notion has been swept under the rug for boys and there was not a lot of discussion concerning ways to teach your son about body positivity. But the effects of fostering this sense of power in your son will give him the outlook he needs to live a full life.
"Positive body image is integral to the development of confident, healthy human beings," according to The Body Positive's website. The way you think about your body matters, because the self-talk that surrounds body image can make or break your confidence. Setting the standard for positive and healthy ideas about the way your body looks can never start too young. Planting the seed of appreciation for his body will grow with your son and spill over into adulthood. Instilling a healthy outlook about bodies will help the next generation to be more accepting of themselves and others.
You don't need a formal sit down talk to pass on body positivity to your son, make the conversation ongoing and useful with these nine ideas.
1. Explain Body Image
Start at the beginning by explaining what this whole body image thing is about. Use a simple definition that kids can understand, like this one from the Kid's Health website:
"Having a positive body image means feeling pretty satisfied with the way you look, appreciating your body for its capabilities and accepting its imperfections."
2. Talk About Puberty
The body undergoes so many changes during puberty, it's important to make your son aware of the changes in a boy's adolescent body. This is an opportunity to encourage your son to think about how these changes make effect his body image, and how he can work towards acceptance of things he may feel negatively about.
3. Address Media Pressures
The media exposes consumers to very few body types. Images of the same body type become repetitious and create a belief that there is only one way to be attractive. Feeling like he has to fit into this box can lead to eating disorders in males, which is another reason to talk to your son about how bodies come in all different shapes and sizes.
4. Model Body Positivity
According to The Body Positive, when adults model body positive behaviors, children benefit. All parents, teachers, and coaches can have an influence on a boy's body image when they live out an example of healthy body image.
5. Circle Back On Adult Comments
Sometimes the things that other adults say can affect a child's self-image. As Psychology Today pointed out, praise or judgement from adults about a child's appearance can affect the child's body image. This most often occurs in the teen years, but can happen in younger years as well.
6. Share Your Struggles
If you've struggled with certain aspects of your appearance, don't hide those from your kids. Use them as an example of how maintaining a body positive attitude is ongoing work, but well worth the effort.
7. Focus On Health
Turn the focus from looks, to health. As psychologist Rebecca Puhl told Parents magazine, "when you talk to your children about weight, focus on health and behavior rather than numbers or appearance." Instill in your son the importance of a healthy body and not just one that looks good on the outside.
8. Find The Right Activities
Part of feeling good about your body, is being proud of the ways you can use it. Help your son find activities or sports that make him feel empowered by his body and encourage him to do those activities regularly.
9. Keep The Conversation Going
As your son takes his journey on body positivity, remind him that you are always open to questions and discussions about this topic. Let him know that his concerns are probably more common that he thinks, and assure him that you will always be supportive of him.