Do you want your children to catch you looking in the mirror and sighing in despair or giving a satisfied smile at your well-groomed appearance? The way you feel about yourself impacts how your little one thinks about their body and their self-esteem.
If you want your children to have a healthy sense of self, you need to model one yourself. Here’s how embracing your body cultivates a positive body image in your children.
1. You Love Your Body for Exploring Your World
Imagine for a moment what the world would look like if advertisers who marketed new fitness gadgets to women framed the benefits in terms of gaining strength, not losing weight. Nearly half of all adolescent girls admit to engaging in unhealthy weight loss strategies like crash dieting, self-induced vomiting and using laxatives. Perhaps not as many would if society celebrated what female bodies can do, not their outward appearance.
You can take over where society drops the ball by teaching your children how to love their bodies for exploring their world. Your kiddos form the foundation for future habits and behavioral patterns during their first five years of life — please take them to the playground so that they can run, skip and jump. Doing so fosters muscular and skeletal development, but, more importantly, it lets them revel in the joy of moving their bodies.
When you go, set an active example for your kids. Show them that delighting in moving your body knows no age limit by squeezing in a fun playground workout or chasing them across the monkey bars. Your toddler gives you the perfect excuse to go down the slide again without feeling silly — take it!
2. You Love Your Hands for How They Can Help
Your hands have the power to crush a spider — or carry it safely and humanely to the outdoors. Get your children engaged in working with their digits while they are young to foster a sense of agency, that they can exert influence over their worlds.
One self-esteem boosting activity that also helps your child develop their humanitarian nature is volunteering. Doing so releases a flood of feel-good brain chemicals associated with reward and can inspire a love of helping others for life. If your kiddos always beg for a pet your lease won’t allow you to have, why not sign up for a shift walking dogs for a local shelter?
3. You Love Your Mouth for Speaking Words of Truth
Even toddlers can recognize that words have the power to hurt or heal. Show them how you use yours to reinforce positive statements about your body image and speak the truth — which is that health and beauty come in all shapes and sizes.
Here’s where you need to be judicious with your language, moms. If you tell your children that they should love themselves at any size, but they overhear you complaining to your friends about how you feel fat, they’ll internalize a mixed message. This contradiction can lead to confusion about their body image. Plus, it will do your self-esteem wonders when you start replacing statements like, “I hate my love handles” with “my slightly squishy body is perfect for hugging.”
4. You Love Your Mind for Learning New Things
Teach your children that their mind is for learning new things that make them feel good about themselves, not worse. To do so effectively, you have to embrace the mindset that life is a journey of improvements and that happiness comes from getting slightly better every day.
For example, perhaps you and your little ones could stand to lose a few pounds. Instead of making your diet a punishment, why not embark on a healthier eating journey together? Study up on lower-calorie substitutes for fattening ingredients and get in the kitchen together to whip up some new favorites.
5. You Love Your Flaws for Making You Unique
Chances are, you wouldn’t trade your child’s bony knees for the world. You love how their little appearance quirks make them unique — embrace this attitude toward your perceived flaws, too. You’ll boost your self-confidence and become a much healthier role model for your children.
If you catch your child saying something negative about part of their body, use this opportunity to teach them positive cognitive reframing techniques to look at things in a better light. Help them first identify that they are talking down about themselves, then help them see things differently. For example, “If I don’t look perfect, no one will like me,” can become, “Everyone is anxious for me to participate no matter how I look.”
You can also model appropriate behavior for your little ones. Instead of crying about a bad haircut, for example, invite them into the bathroom with you to play stylist and see what you can do to rock the look.
Embracing Your Body Cultivates Positive Body Image in Your Children
Your attitudes toward yourself rub off on your little ones. Embracing your body cultivates a positive body image in your children and helps create healthy self-esteem.
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