I was recently hanging out with a friend and her daughter before going to the pool when my friend said, “my thighs are fat!” Her daughter, being next to us, heard this interaction take place. Later that week, my friend’s daughter stated that she no longer wanted to wear shorts because, “my thighs are fat like mom’s.” My friend’s seemingly innocent comment had a great impact on her daughter. What came after was a discussion about body image and how this affects each of us. See, kids are like sponges. They are continuously soaking up information and absorbing what is around them. So how can we, as adults, express our concerns without passing on destructive ideals to our kids?
Stress the Importance of Balance
The good news: With a little practice, it’s not that hard! Try modeling healthy habits. If you are concerned about your appearance, don’t limit yourself to only eating that chicken and rice in front of your kiddo. Instead, model a combination of healthier choices alongside those more indulgent options in moderation. Talk about the dangers of extremes with your child and why balance is important. In doing so, your child will see that food is not to be feared, but rather, it can be something that’s both tasty and fuels our bodies. Such an approach may help prevent the development of disordered eating.
Model a Healthy Approach to Activity
Be active in your lifestyle with them, so they learn that activity can be fun and does not have to be a chore. This does not mean obsessively going to the gym or running every day. Instead, such activities can include dancing in the living room, going for walks with the dog, or playing tag in the park or back yard! Stay away from comments that sound like punishing yourself for not working out or getting to the gym.
Demonstrate Emotional Openness
With that in mind, it’s important to model healthy mental and emotional habits as well. Express when you are having a tough time and what emotions are coming up. This may feel like a strange conversation to have with a child. However, doing so demonstrates for kids that they are allowed to have big emotions as well and that it’s okay to take up emotional real estate.
All in all, watch how you say things. We are all works in progress with things that we aim to better about ourselves. Approach these types of discussions with your kids in a productive manner that models self-compassion. If it comes out wrong or is upsetting for your child, that’s okay. In fact, it’s quite normal. Have a conversation with them about their questions and feelings in a judgement-free, patient manner.
Contact Us to Connect with a Therapist
Sometimes, talking to a therapist about your struggles can reduce the likelihood that they will get aired harmfully in front of your kids. If you or someone you know could benefit from talking things out, we are here to help. Here at Greenway Therapy we have multiple therapists who can help guide you on your journey, provide resources, and support you.