Here's 9 conversations that can help.
We’ve all been there, in that moment. We’re standing in front of the mirror and we hate what we see. We grow up learning to dislike the way we look… we want to be taller, we want to be skinnier, we want to be faster, have bigger boobs, have smaller boobs, more feminine hips, bigger lips, stronger arms, more tone, less fat, more, less, more, less, blah, blah blaaaaaaaaah.
It’s exhausting, but we learn to live with it… kinda!
But when we become mums, we try to hide our beautiful kids from this awful side of life, hoping like heck that they can grow up immune to it!
BUT… Oh WOW! It has just happened and I hate it. Body image stress. Just. Hit. My. Baby. Girl. (Who is not actually a baby anymore, but hey, she’s only 9!)
So she came home from a playdate and came to me with some upsetting information.
“Mum, the girls were saying today that they have the fattest legs… Do you think my legs are fat? I kinda think they’re chubby and next to those girls, mine are definitely the biggest!”
Oh crap!! Seriously? Nine?!!!! I didn’t think this would be an issue for some time but hey, let’s delve right in now shall we…?
The following is a list of NINE conversations that you can have with your kids (or yourself) or adjustments you can make in your home to TRY to combat body image issues, before they arise.
1. Any communication is good communication...
“Ok. Firstly, I am just so happy you came to check in with me about this hun. I love that you feel you can ask me anything and always come to me with whatever you’d like, to understand more. I am always here for you and you can always ask me anything, even and especially the things that feel uncomfortable to talk about.”
2. All bodies are unique and they are all beautiful...
“So, what have we always said about bodies? They’re unique. Everyone has one and they are all different shapes and sizes and ALL ARE OK. ALL are beautiful.”
3. Size and shape are nowhere near the most important attributes of a body...
“Let’s talk about your amazingly strong, fit, healthy and able body for a moment. Let’s thank it for all that it does for you! Let’s appreciate your strong legs that get you around this world every, single, day! Let’s celebrate your speed, your flexibility, your cartwheeling joy and your agile and acrobatic style of moving through your days. How incredible are your muscles that support every single movement you choose to make? And let’s not take our body for granted… You can feel chubby, but is it really accurately true? And does it even matter? And is it important to focus on that feeling, or is it way more important to be grateful for the fact that you are absolutely gifted with a remarkable body that can do most of what you wish it to do?”
4. Have the courage to speak up if a conversation isn’t making you feel great...
“How did you feel about the conversation they were having? Did it make you guys feel good about yourselves or did it bring you guys down? If a chat isn’t lifting you up, helping you to feel supportive or positive about yourselves, then question whether it is a good convo to be having. Is it a time to suggest a new topic or game to play? If a friend is having a down moment on themselves, what are some things you could suggest they do to feel better about themselves? It is definitely not your job to make them feel better about themselves, but it is truly important that you protect yourself and don’t stay in a conversation that isn’t making you feel good. Most importantly… make sure you know when you need to get a trusted adult for support and advice on the situation.”
5. Let’s focus on the wonderful you!
“Let’s make a self portrait and remind yourself of all the wonderful, unique and uplifting qualities you embody… Let’s list all the strong and fit physical elements as well as all the emotionally intelligent and generous gifting traits you offer the world. We can put it up in your room or on your mirror, somewhere you can see it often as a constant reminder of who you truly are, not what you look like in comparison to others.”
6. Let’s research inspiring women...
“Let’s write a list of inspiring women who we know and love! Let’s look up to women who push through the pressure to fit into a certain mould and who achieve incredible feats with their powerful bodies, hearts, souls and minds. Let’s write letters to these inspiring women and ask questions on how they break through body image issues and see what motivates them. Let’s show our gratitude for their bravery in showing up to the world in their authentic body, who speak up for us all and who make such an important differences in the world with their courage.”
7. Mums… it’s time to check in...
Now let’s get personal and go within… Let’s honestly check in with ourselves as mothers and as powerful women. Are we standing in front of the mirror and hating on our body, on our appearance, on our size? Are we voicing this discomfort? Are we announcing our dislike to our families? Are our kids bearing witness to our body shaming? Are they noticing the silent disdain for ourselves? Are they seeing us trying to change our shape in order to ‘fit in’, feel accepted or valued? Let’s get real with ourselves so that we can be real with them and hopefully change the way in which they grow up thinking, feeling, viewing and valuing themselves.
8. Check your network...
How can you build a supportive network of women? Start a group chat with all your child’s friend’s mums and check in with them about your kids and their self image. By connecting with each other about our own body image and how our kids are affected, I am so confident that we can positively impact our kids and how they view their own bodies. Checking in with the parents in your network allows everyone to support each other, not only with body image challenges, but with any other issue that may pop up along the way. How awesome would it feel to have the support to know that when your child is at a friend’s house, they are with parents who are aware of the dialogue needed to help uplift your child and vice versa?
9. Be healthy together!
Get active together! Show positivity around moving in a physical way that promotes laughter, fun, fitness and health! Go outside and play in the rain, kick a ball at the beach or have a dance off in the lounge room. Dust off the bikes in the shed and take yourselves out for a ride. Swim, bush walk, play together at the basketball / netball courts, oval, playground… anywhere that gets the heart pumping and the active vibes flowin’. You’ll be amazed by the joyful bond created and the powerful conversations that open up just by spending some active time together. It also says, ‘I’m here with you’, ‘You are worthy of my time’ and ‘I love you’. Make balanced, healthy food choices in your home. We all know that eating well helps make us all feel great! Role modelling this can be such an empowering gift to your kids and impact them for life.
About the Author
Naomi Hunter is a primary school teacher, a yoga instructor and the author of four children’s books, including ABIA nominated A Secret Safe to Tell and Even Mummy Cries. She is a passionate advocate for child safety and draws on her many childhood experiences, including sexual abuse, mental health issues, experiences with an eating disorder and living in a stressful and often violent home to positively impact children and their families through her writing.
Naomi is honest in her delivery, nurturing in her manner and passionate in her quest for empowered children across the world.