Encouraging Body Positivity in Children
This month we asked our community how do they encourage and/or empower children and young people to be accepting of all bodies, regardless of size, shape, skin tone, gender, mental and physical abilities?
As a parent you are the most influential role model in your children’s life, so lead by example. Give your children opportunities to appreciate their body for what it can do, rather than what it looks like. If you’re concerned about your children’s body image, self-esteem, eating behaviours or physical activity behaviours, consult with your doctor for information and referral.
Body positivity is how you think and feel about your body, and what you imagine it looks like. This may have nothing to do with your actual appearance, including your size, shape and weight. Having a positive body image means you can accept, appreciate and respect your body and others. A positive body image is associated with better self-esteem, self-acceptance and healthy lifestyle behaviours, including a balanced approach to food and physical activity.
Poor or negative body image can have negative effects on a person’s physical, psychological and social health. This can include disordered eating, compulsive exercise or overexercising, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. Relationships, social functioning, mood and activity choices can be seriously affected by body image and low self-esteem. Feeling self-conscious or distressed about physical appearance can cause some people to decrease social interactions and disengage from daily activities. This can create feelings of loneliness and isolation, and increase concerns about being accepted by others, which can further affect self-esteem. Find more about this topic on The Better Health Channel.
How do you encourage and/or empower children and young people to be accepting of all bodies, regardless of size, shape, skin tone, gender, mental and physical abilities? As a foundation for children to be accepting of others and show empathy towards others I first support the individual child to develop confidence and a sense of agency through connection.
Most bias instilled in children are learnt behaviours and views through their social environments and they are often not confident enough to question these sometimes-negative views. As a teacher and a play therapist I ensure my environment is inclusive and reflects the diverse community I live in to ensure a sense of belonging for all people.
As a parent I have open discussions with my children around acceptance as a way of being, I welcome constructive conversation for my children to learn and explore different views, culture, and abilities. I foster this development through role modelling empathy and acceptance to all in my personal and professional worlds.
Connections Play Therapy & Consultancy
In my experience I've found that children tend to be more accepting of all bodies and disabilities more so than adults. While some kids can be cruel, I think most are curious and lack the social graces to not be blunt. One of the lessons we teach our students to help with this situation is called the "10 second rule". The 10 second rule is this; if you see someone who's different or strange and it would take more than 10 seconds for them to fix it then keep your mouth closed. For example, if you see someone with a big birth mark, or is hugely overweight or talks funny, they can't fix that in ten seconds. There's no point in saying anything or pointing it out to them or anyone else. They already know!
Now, on the other hand, if you see something that they can fix in 10 seconds, their fly is down, something is stuck in their teeth or something else that's potentially embarrassing it might be a nice gesture to discretely let them know so as they can take care of it before someone, less polite, points it out.
Nathan Van der Klugt
Rhee Tae Kwon Do Bundaberg