Hello lovely human beings – let’s grow. As an upfront disclaimer, prepare yourself for some hard talk. Right now we have to not care if we completely loath the way we look, or what we feel like in our own bodies – I’m of the opinion that once we became parents, there’s certain parts of us that aren’t about us anymore. In fact, not just certain parts – a lot of parts, because in order to raise the next generation well – we have to lead by example. (but, if this does trigger you, please look into those feelings and talk to someone. It can only make you grow and become a fuller and more healed human being)
Ok, so like I said – let’s put on our big people underwear but I’m not saying that our insecurities aren’t valid and our history is null and void, and that we have to have it completely together. No darling, dish about that stuff with your adult friends. But what I am saying is that we have to become so much more aware of how we envelope our “stuff” around our little humans.
Oh, and also too often we think that this only has to do with little girls – but its for our boys as well. There are so many facets here, but all in all the main thing is to become aware of yourself in front of your little people. How do you look at yourself in the mirror? What is your face saying? What comments do you put out there about yourself and others in front of them?
As a new parent, I remember when my first daughter was born – I realized quite quickly that she was mimicking me from a very young age and she was picking up on everything, and I mean EV-RAY-THANG. My body language, my verbal queues, my facial expressions, my tone, my opinions about the world. The good, the bad and the “oh my word! don’t say/do that in front of granny” moments – for the love of peanut butter sandwiches.
I remember stopping myself one day and realizing that I had to observe myself from her perspective – to her, I was the ultimate example of a human. She wanted to be like me. All of us as parents go through this but it’s what we do ‘with it’ that’s important.
So I’ve put together 5 Tips that can just help you be a lot more consciously positive around your little people without compromising on being genuine and authentic. Because let’s be honest – we don’t want our kids to grow up thinking that we have everything all together and their insecurities aren’t valid either.
So let’s go.
1. Watch your language
I’m not talking about cursing words, I’m talking about the words you use to describe yourself or what food, an outfit or situation will make you “look” like. For example: If I’m being offered another piece of cake, or treat – the reflex response would be, “no I can’t, it will make me fat…..” right there your kid is getting the message that fat is a bad thing through the word you’ve used. All you have to do is change the word – “no I can’t, it will make me full…..”
Another way of becoming aware is when you describe or talk about body parts or descriptions. Tall, Short, Fat, Skinny – as much as they are the simplest of adjectives – they are also often the root of so many people’s insecurities – including our own. All you do is change the way you describe human beings – if a larger person is in a red cap and yellow t-shirt – use it. Describe them with that. It does take some time to adjust because it’s just so much easier to use the more “obvious” words – but just pause, take a breath and then describe yourself, another person or whatever you’re dealing with. Example: This makes me feel uncomfortable (rather than fat) This makes me look amazing (rather than skinny)
2. Create Body Positive moments
Take one moment in the day, when the body is being dealt with in a particular task, and highlight something good about yourself and ask your little one what they think about themselves and celebrate it.
I’m not suggesting that you do this every single day, but I do remember doing this quite often when my kids were younger, then phasing it out to being less as they grew up.
As an example, I used to take their bath time as a good time to talk about our bodies because it was a brilliant time of day for us. I called it, “what’s your favourite body part for today….” If you have a mirror – use it.
The rules were that anything goes but you weren’t allowed to repeat it the next day and you always had to find something even if you’re having a sad day.
As an example I would say, my favourite part is my elbow because it’s really strong and I can use it to defend myself. Then they would take a turn and say something like, “My ears because I like how squishy they are at the bottom and hard they are at the top”.
What I found helped is that there was always something good to find about our bodies. We did the obvious ones and I would deliberately pick on what I was insecure about and say something positive about it – like my belly is hangy and I love it because it gave me three beautiful babies and I think it’s so strong.
Often, just by speaking it out loud in a room where no one is judging but learning has been liberating for both them and myself. Also, be prepared to laugh WITH each other. Enjoy your bonding moment.
We’ve since started talking about insecurities and why – but that has been as they’ve gotten older.
3. Be honest with each other
You know the phrase some adult somewhere is saying to every teen out there – “no you are not wearing that!”? I know we’ve all heard it and then there’s a really horrid descriptive reason afterwards or whatever. Time to prepare yourself to be open to their opinions too. (this is more to pave the way for them to accept your opinion later when it really matters but laying the foundation now)
If you open up to them and give them room to share their opinion about your outfits and why they think it’s good or not then it gives you the window into sharing your opinion about theirs as well. Talk about how clothes make you feel – “I feel beautiful in this because….” “I feel comfortable in this because…..” more often than not – there’s a lot of introspection that is going to have to happen on the inside of you so that you can help them process the way that they feel about what they’re clothing themselves with.
So an example would be – my oldest absolutely loves wearing a t-shirt that she’s had for 3 years…… it doesn’t quite fit anymore. Instead of telling her to remove it immediately (as much I would love to) I ask her first, “why are you wearing a t-shirt that is too small for you?” She proceeds to explain that she enjoys how the fabric feels and that she likes the colours.
I then gently explain that I don’t think it’s a good idea to be wearing the top anymore because as an observer – it looks uncomfortable and I show her how the seem on the shoulder isn’t where it’s supposed to be and the bottom of the t-shirt isn’t at the place where the t-shirt was designed to sit.
She still insists on wearing it. I honestly say, “Ok, but if you plan to lift your arms do you have something to cover your stomach when the t-shirt won’t go down again? And are you ok with constantly pulling it down all of the time?” If she answers, “yes” Then I leave her and give parameters making sure that the decision is still her own as long as she knows there’ll be consequences in the environment she’s going into.
If she answers “no” then I suggest a wardrobe change and a possible way to still enjoy the t-shirt in a different way by altering it.
4. Their body is their friend, So listen to it
Teaching your children to listen to their bodies is important. If they say they’re hungry or if they say they’re full – believe them. You get the “grazers” and then the “eat it now because I want it now” approach to food. With a “grazer” (which I have 2 of and my hubby) It’s teaching them to listen to their bodies about what fuel they need and why they are constantly hungry – then providing that fuel. If there’s just treats and sweets around – they learn to just fuel themselves with that – whereas if they can graze on affordable healthy options – then they’re learning to fuel their bodies well with options that teach their bodies healthy habits.
If you have a “eat it now because I want it now” (which is me and I think my one daughter) Then it’s talking throughout the meal about how our bodies feel at a certain point, what makes the food enjoyable to us and also how fuel makes us feel afterwards, then choosing if that’s the physical feeling we want to live with.
Now, if you have little people – this conversation is really deep and I remember starting with it around age 8-9.
But when they’re younger it’s learning to listen to when they say they’re full or if they’re hungry and asking why, so that they can explain their physical feeling to you so you can help them make a good choice for their bodies.
5. Get moving
All too often we limit movement to being what we have all seen in the exercise videos and adverts and such. But being a kid and just prioritizing play is a wonderful way to appreciate what our bodies can do. This is another one that’s learned from an example as well as having environments set.
Now I’m not saying you have to run marathons with your kids or hit that “Hiit” session in front of them in your lounge or whatever. What I’m saying is get out, get them to fluff sheets with you. Let them climb over the couch and jump on cushions. Take the time to engage in play that is physical – building forts with blankets, moving furniture around, playing hide and seek, helping them climb a tree or jungle gym. The key is to move – and celebrate the movement.
Praise their achievements of going higher, jumping further, throwing harder. The praise and acknowledgement from you as their parent is all they crave and will make them want to go for it more. But also, get in there with them – don’t sit on the side waving – ask them what they thought of your kick, your lift and express how you’re trying too.
Lastly – tell them that you love them. ALL – THE – TIME!! A child that is rolling their eyes and saying “I know you love me” still wants to hear it. A child that isn’t doing anything to please you ALSO wants to hear it. So say it!
So, there you have it. I know it’s a lot and I’ve pretty much squeezed every bit of juice out of each tip – but I’m passionate about having confident kids. It’s not about body shape, or situations. It’s as simple and working on the relationship you have with your kid and building into them what you know they can have freely. When you show them they can have a positive view of their bodies – that makes for a body positive environment.
Go get it, and enjoy the rewards of being amazing together.