- You have such a wonderful energy!
- I love how passionate you are about --------.
- You have a kind heart.
- I feel very happy when I am around you.
- You are always yourself and it's wonderful to see.
- You are so capable! You can do whatever you set your mind to.
- You're really smart.
- You're such a great listener.
- Your opinions are really interesting, tell me more!
- You are really creative!
Try to switch your language when you speak about your body and other peoples’ bodies. Instead of talking about how they look, try to describe what they actually do. For example, if your child came to you saying, “I don’t like my big stomach” use this as a prompt to start a conversation about what our stomachs do. When you really think about it, our bodies are extraordinary and the antidote to being dissatisfied with them is being grateful for them. The most common mistake parents make is that they think their own relationship with their bodies and/or food doesn’t affect their children. In truth, parents are the most influential people when it comes to their child's body image and relationship with food. The way you talk about your body, and food, matters. My top tips are to:
- Never talk negatively about your body or anyone else's body - children are always listening.
- Model showing gratitude for your body by saying things like, “Thank-you legs for getting me around today.”
- Do not attach virtue to foods. There are no good foods or bad foods, only sometimes foods or always foods. And you cannot be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for not eating or eating.
3. Share and celebrate diversity with your child.
Seek out television shows, picture books and movies that highlight and celebrate diversity. We cannot be what we cannot see, and every young person just wants to feel as though they belong. What makes us different, makes us who we are and it’s important to celebrate the differences within ourselves and others.
4. Introduce self-care as a skill to build resilience and emotional intelligence.
Self-care is not only great for nurturing a positive body image, it’s an important life skill that a young person will use throughout their whole lives. You can support your child to build up their self-care skills by first supporting them to build awareness around their emotions. You can do this by asking them questions such as:
- Where do you feel the feeling in your body?
- If your feeling was a colour what would it be?
- What word would you use to describe the feeling? (if you need help increasing emotional vocabulary this app is really helpful)
Once they understand how they feel, they will be better able to choose an activity that best supports them. It’s important to note that this self-care activity does not need to ‘fix’ the feeling. For example, if your child has said they are ‘sad’ they do not need to then choose an activity that will make them laugh. It’s important that your child does not run away from the feeling but rather moves through it. If we ignore or distract from a feeling, it only comes back more intensely - the only way out is through.
Some examples of self-care for feelings of sadness are; drawing, writing, listening to relaxing music or receiving a big hug. You can print out this free self-care poster if you need some self-care ideas to explore.
Head over to the Australian School Mums to share and discuss what is working for your child.
Jess Sanders is a ‘social impact entrepreneur’. Social Author, Author and co-host of The Unlearning, a podcast unlearning the harmful narratives you’ve been socialised to believe about bodies, gender, mental health.