How To Deal With A Young Child Hating Her Body, Because It's Not Easy
Growing up in today's society, it's not uncommon to catch the wave of body shame here or there. Growing up as a young woman, it's especially easy to feel like your body is a commodity that everyone seemingly has something to say about. And raising a child in that kind of environment can be difficult, especially when your daughter feels negatively about her own body. For many parents, it poses the question how do you deal with a young child hating her body?
Though there's no one single thing you can do as a parent to prevent your daughter from adapting a negative body image about herself, there are several things you can do to help teach your daughter about positive body image from the very beginning of her childhood. From considering the way you talk about your own body, to changing the language you use when talking about food and body types, you can change the narrative of body acceptance in your own home without too much trouble. The more you practice body positivity in your home, the more your child will grow up equipped with the tools they need to combat the negative world of body shaming, and who couldn't use a little more help with that?
1. Practice What You Preach
When it comes to body positivity, you're one of the first people your daughter will look to for guidance. If she sees you criticizing yourself on a daily basis, she's going to learn by example. Though you're not going to have all good days, it's important that you learn to love yourself, so that your child learns to love themselves. Young children are very impressionable, and it's essential that they can look to you for guidance on how to treat themselves.
2. Have Positive Discussions About Food
Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietitian and author of Read It Before You Eat It, told CBS News that the idea that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar rings true for making food choices with your children, too. Rather than labeling food as bad, junk, or unhealthy, talk about the foods that are good for the body. The same report showed a Cornell study that said talking about nutrition with your children, and discussing the food your bodies do need rather than the food your body doesn't need, tends to have a better effect on children's idea of nutrition and food as they grow.
3. Have Positive Discussions About Exercise
Just like having positive discussions about food and nutrition can be a game changer, so can having positive discussions about exercise. Rather than framing exercise as a way to lose weight, frame exercise as an important way to help your body become strong and capable. According to The Oakland Press, kids are more likely to adopt behaviors that excite them with an immediate goal. This includes exercise. If your child sees you dreading exercise every day, if they watch your example and only see you exercising when you want to drop five pounds, it may be time to reframe your relationship with exercise to help along your child's own issues with body acceptance.
4. Change Your Adjectives About Food
Rather than distinguishing foods as good or bad, or healthy or unhealthy, Parents recommended referring to foods as "sometimes" vs. "always" foods. By labeling foods without negative connotations, your children will learn that some foods are better eaten sometimes, without making them feel guilty for their choices being bad, or unhealthy.
5. Teach The Science Of Food
While you're discussing the difference between always and sometimes foods, make sure you discuss the reason why some foods are always foods, and some are sometimes foods. According to Parents, discussing how food affects the digestive system, and helping your kids feel connected to their bodies will help your child learn healthy eating habits in the long run.
6. Involve Her In Your Body Positivity
Rather than treating your own body image and your child's body image as separate entities, why not give intertwining them a shot? According to the Child Mind Institute, acknowledging your daughter's feelings and sympathizing will go a long way. Rather than acting like you've always loved your body, acknowledge the things that you've been troubled by too. But be sure to point out the fact that even though you may have your own body image issues, that you didn't let them get in the way of who you wanted to be, or what you wanted to become.
7. Give Compliments On Their Actions
It's not that telling your child how wonderful they look is damaging on its own, and let's be honest, telling your kid how adorable they are in the new outfit grandma got them is really difficult to curb. But don't focus solely on looks. Rather than keeping your comments and praise surrounding your child on their looks, make sure you include how proud you are of their accomplishments too. Finishing a puzzle, getting an A on a spelling quiz, and learning to tie their shoes are just as astonishing and worthy of praise as how great they look in their pretty new outfit, don't you think?