They’re watching. They’re always watching. Our sons and daughters look to us to model positive behavior, but what do we do when we aren’t feeling so positive? Fake it. Especially when it comes to body image, the best gift we can give our children is to love ourselves and others. Eating disorders are on the rise, with children as young as 7 being diagnosed, and it’s no wonder. Social influencers teach our children more than how to make slime and unbox toys. They’re teaching our children what “cool” looks like. But we can combat that with some unusual and powerful tricks.
Modeling body positivity is a no-brainer, but how does that actually look in real life? It’s so much more than stepping on the scale and not keeling over at the number. It means enjoying what your body has to offer. If your weight is something you’re working on, don’t step on the scale in front of the kids at all. Don’t do it.
How else can we celebrate our bodies in front of our children? Dance. Dance in the bathroom when you’re getting ready, dance in the back yard in your bathing suit, and dance when you’re setting the table. Really get into it, too. Shake that booty, put your hands on your hips, and have some fun. By exposing that skin while you’re having a blast, you are showing your children that size does not dictate happiness. Parents live lives filled with stress, and our children feel that stress, so enjoying your body and what it can do in front of your children has a powerful effect.
Try it. Spend five minutes a day with the music high—preferably whatever song is your kids’ current favorite—put on shorts and a tee, and party. They’ll get the message.
Embrace The Love of Your Significant Other
This one is a tough one. If you’re in a relationship, have you fallen into the trap of no-go areas? Do you move your lover’s hands away from that spare tire when you hug? If your shirt accidentally creeps up while you’re watching TV on the couch, do you quickly pull it down? Next time, resist the urge. Often when the topic of body positivity comes up, we think of our daughters, but it’s important that we think about our sons as well. We want to model how to be loved for both our sons and daughters.
Embrace affection from your S.O. Let them know of your plan, and see if they’re open to embracing more affection from you. Hug more and touch each other in front of the kids more. Nothing creepy, a hand on the thigh during family movie night is fine. Let your sons and daughters know that, no matter the skin you’re in, you’re worthy of giving and receiving love, and love is worth giving and receiving. Bonus side effect: you may just start to believe yourself. Go ahead and take that to bed with you.
Celebrate Successes in a New Light
Okay, so what if you’re working on dropping weight? Congrats! Improving our health is a noble goal. Be careful, though. Yo-yo dieting can get the best of any of us, and celebrating your successes in front of your kids sometimes means mourning your failures as well.
To circumvent the ups and downs of weight loss, focus on all of your accomplishments; not just your physical ones. Let’s say you missed a few days at the gym because you were busy working on a big project at work. Celebrate that out loud! Forego the disparaging comments about how you haven’t worked out all week, and instead, buy yourself roses and let your children know that you are rewarding yourself for a huge work accomplishment.
Get creative about big and little ways to praise yourself. Did you file your own taxes this year? Stretch that back out with some child’s pose and downward dog and make a big show of the money you saved by preparing them yourself. Then go spend that money on yourself!
When your children see that you fight hard to hit goals related to more than a number on a scale, they’ll be reminded that they are more than a number on a scale as well. They’ll remember that we are dynamic, multifaceted individuals who have more on our minds than our appearances.
Try as we might, it feels impossible not to size up strangers. We all do it, we’ll probably never stop doing it, but we can throw a wrench in our own negativity by sizing up strangers in a good way. If you’re in line at the bank and the young woman in front of you has embraced her gray hair, compliment her on it. Not an extrovert? That’s okay. Once you’re back in the car, make a quick comment on it to the kids. “Did you see that woman’s beautiful silver hair?” By busting negative stereotypes in your day-to-day activities, your children will naturally start doing the same. If you see someone in a sequined shirt you instantly deem inappropriate, switch your mindset and instead comment on how beautiful it is when the light shines off of it.
Look at people in a new way, and verbally express your positive observations to your children. Whether it’s admiring how fast the briefcase man ran to catch the bus this morning or commenting on the polite actions of the person who holds open the door for you, you’re demonstrating how to view people from a new and fresh angle, instead of just focusing on what they look like.
You may have noticed by now that, for an article about body positivity and your children, very little of the body or the child was mentioned at all. That’s the point. Body positivity is about so much more than our reflection in the mirror. It’s about not letting our hang-ups affect our happiness and whole self. It’s about being vocal about the beauty in all parts of ourselves and others.
Even if it feels forced and unnatural, try to apply one or two of the tips in your week next week and pay attention to how it makes you feel. Observe how your kids react. The old adage fake it till you make it can be a powerful tool for overcoming the cycle of negative self-talk. After all, body positivity is about so much more than just embracing your curves; it’s about embracing the wonders of our mind, environment, and heart.