Ask yourself honestly – do you think there is an ideal body type?
When was the last time you looked in the mirror and was happy with what you saw?
Has your child ever approved of his or her own looks?
Why are these questions important? We believe that it is important to help our children build a healthy self and body image. In the world full of ideals, pressure from media and the influencer culture, we ought to encourage our children to have healthy perspectives and thus a positive self-esteem.
We break down what is body positivity as well as body neutrality.
Body Neutrality v.s. Body Positivity
We might have heard of body positivity – a movement that accepts and treats all body types equally. Accepting how we look has been fuelling changes in how companies advertise. In response, brands have sought models of various body shapes, skin colour to “preach” an inclusive body-positive message.
Body neutrality, on the other hand, is a more balanced view of body image. While it embraces body acceptance, it also acknowledges what needs to be done in terms of health issues or existing illnesses. Body neutrality focuses on cherishing the body and at the same time caring for it by working towards health and fitness goals, eating well and appreciating what our bodies are made to do.
Why Being Body Neutral is Important for Our Children
Perhaps in our culture, we get told too much about our imperfections. Whether these messages are communicated directly through loved ones or the idealised world of social media, they can shape how we think and feel and in turn we project them onto our children.
We think it is essential to help our children develop healthy perspectives towards their bodies starting from a young age. First it helps them to look past physical being and see people as a whole rather than be defined by how they look. Second a healthy self-image also prevents them from developing eating disorders or resort to health-threatening solutions as a result of insecurities they face. Thirdly, we need more rational voices and critical thinkers in this body-negative world.
How to Help Our Children Be Body-Neutral
Once I was observed to be showing displeasure on the number of grey strands on my head, my son immediately picked it up and said “You don’t look nice because of your white hair.” Children pick up the most insignificant things from their adult role models – yes that’s us.
Rather than focusing on our bodily flaws as well as that of our children, we should learn to teach body neutrality through how we view our own bodies. We ought to embrace each other’s physical uniqueness and know that we are all made differently.
Check the content you are consuming daily, are they positive influences on your mind or body? Otherwise, time to do some culling and practise discernment on your Social Media feed.
Talk About It, especially their Insecurities
Children can notice the differences between themselves and their peers, sometimes they may feel upset over things they cannot control. Talk about it and have an open conversation about their insecurities. No one is “too short”, “too plump”, “too skinny”. Encourage respectful conversations about body types and acknowledge that there can be a higher tendency of health problems with each physical condition. Hence, we need to be careful with extremes while being mindful about our health.
For instance, if your child thinks “I’m too fat, I can’t run fast!”. Talk about why there shouldn’t be an ideal of body types and shapes, he or she is loved regardless of size or speed. If the goal is to run faster, practising running and exercising together can be a fitness goal to work towards.
Also praise your child’s attributes that are non-physical. You could say “I love you for being you, resilient, curious, fast, helpful..”.
Teach Healthy Eating Habits & Lifestyle
Balanced meals, less junk food, exercising, outdoor time are some ways to practise healthy lifestyle habits. Exercising and playing outdoors are also instant mood-lifters. Take pride in developing these habits as a family. It goes beyond just “looking good” but “feeling great” too.
Celebrate Important Aspects of Your Child’s Life
There is plenty to celebrate other than one’s looks which one has limited control over – family, relationships, achievement, challenges that they overcome. We are all more than just what we look, how we dress, what we weigh. Our BMI does not define us. We can all appreciate our bodies for what they can do but that is just one aspect of our identities.
Let’s celebrate our child for the whole person – his/her likes and dislikes, relationships with others, talents, personality and more.
Discuss the P Word – Pornography
Adolescents will encounter pornography hence it is wise to prepare for the conversation. Pornography also skews self and body image and subjects humans, particularly ladies into objects. One way to broach the subject is to sit in the Brain Defence course together with our children.
We may be surprised to hear our children speak about “norms” and how their perceptions of human bodies are, especially in relation to “bad pictures” portraying negative images of bodies and actions.
Let’s Grow a Culture that Embraces Healthy Self Image
Be confident to take on counter-culture perspectives so our children can grow up with the right mindsets in this body-negative world. It is not just about appreciating our bodies the way they are made, but embracing their flaws and consistently developing healthy habits that benefit our entire being.