Teaching body positivity to children can be hard, given all the attention to the "perfect" body in pop culture, and despite brands' and media companies' attempts to change how people think about their appearance. Like a lot of other valuable life lessons, loving oneself starts with the messages children get from their parents. Which is exactly why Jenna Bush Hager's letter to her daughters about being body positive is so important.
Hager's wrote an open letter to her girls, Mila and Poppy, on Today's website. She started by telling them how happy she gets when she's on the road and can scroll through social media to see their adorable, shiny, faces. It's not just their sparkly blue eyes and curly hair that she loves, but their "kindness, your exuberance, your creativity and, yes, your rambunctious humor."
Just like any kids, though, Hager worries that, as they grow up, they'll start to be burdened by images in pop culture that send a message that all of that isn't "enough." Hager wrote, "you will inevitably compare yourself. And you will feel that you come up short. I know that I did."
Who hasn't? Part of what makes Hager's letter to her daughters so relatable is the honesty. It's not enough to just tell young women to be body positive. It's important to tell them that it's normal, if totally messed up, to feel like "not enough" sometimes. The trick is remembering that that's so very, very far from the truth.
The mom wrote, "As one of the tallest girls in my class, I wasn't the type boys fell for ... and worse, one of my first boyfriends in middle school broke up with me after a swim date!" She added, "That's not great for confidence-building, I'll tell you." No, it most definitely is not. Hager added:
My hearts, you, too, will look in the mirror and not always like what you see. You might not feel skinny enough or pretty enough. But if Daddy and I do our jobs, you will look in the mirror and always like who you see. And that, my babes, is far more important.
Apparently, this body positive lesson runs in the family. Hager wrote to her girls that their grandparents, George W. and Laura Bush, always raised her to look beyond physical appearance.
But, my darlings, I was lucky because even though your grandparents encouraged me to like what I see, they emphasized that I should like how I think, how I care and how I make those around me feel. They taught me that who I am is more important than how I look. And that if I radiate love, kindness and empathy, I can bring some light to this dark world (and isn't that better than being a size zero?).
It doesn't matter what size a person is, as her letter implies, and teaching kids to value their personality traits over their physical appearance is a good place to start. It's just essential to remind them that their body shape is beautiful and valuable, whatever it may be. Body positivity isn't about "not caring" about one's weight or looks, it's about knowing that every body is worth something, despite what one may see on a magazine cover or in the movies.
Being body positive is not an easy feat in this culture, but starting early and teaching young people that they're beautiful inside and out is the way to do it. Hager's letter drives the point home. Hopefully her message reaches other young girls and boys, too. Because the lesson's an important one.