How to Talk About Your Own Body in Front of Your Kids
"We all have our own beliefs about appearance, weight, and shape. It's important to think about how your attitudes and beliefs may influence the way your child sees their own body," said Rebecca Manley, MS, CTC, CCTP, founder of MEDA (Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association), who's certified in cognitive behavioral therapy. She added that while it can be hard to feel positive about the way you look all the time, try not to criticize your appearance and say things like, "I'm so fat," or, "I hate how my butt looks in these leggings," as this may encourage your child to be critical of their own appearance.
"If a young girl constantly sees her mother picking herself apart, pointing out her flaws, or complaining about her weight, it teaches the daughter that bodies are filled with problems to be fixed," said certified intuitive-eating counselor and registered dietitian Lauren Cadillac, RD, CPT. "I work with so many women now who have been dieting for years and are trying to heal their relationship with food. Many have early memories of their mother being on a diet and constantly trying to lose weight," she said. In order to promote body positivity, we need to stop pointing out our flaws.
"Cutting out negative self-talk can go a long way," agreed registered dietitian Mindy Black, MS, CSSD. If you slip and say something negative about yourself, always follow it up with something positive.
If you want to talk about your appearance when your child is around, try to be positive and praising, Manley suggested. This may be as simple as finding one aspect of your body you like or find useful and mentioning it in front of your child. Say things like, "I love my legs, they are strong." She said, "If it feels too hard to be positive, you can be neutral," and say things like, "My legs help me to run and play with you."
You don't always have to comment about how you look to promote body positivity. Manley said, "Praise yourself in areas not related to appearance in front of your child, so they learn that there are many ways to be valued." You can say things like, "I'm a good listener," "I'm a good friend," or "I'm an excellent cook."
It's important to remember that whatever you say about one body — your own, someone's on TV, someone in the grocery store — you are saying about all bodies, added registered dietitian Brenna O'Malley, creator of the health blog The Wellful. Your message matters, so teach your kids about body diversity. Encourage them to see and know that it's normal for bodies to be different shapes and sizes and that bodies change, grow, and look different throughout life. "If you're struggling with your own body image, working on this for yourself will not only help you but can also set an example for your children," she said.