Children are innately curious. They are constantly observing and considering the things around them. They may ask questions about the different body shapes and sizes they perceive and make comparisons to their own.
As adults, it’s essential to recognize our own thoughts and comments related to body size that may negatively impact the children around us. Talking about body weight and size with children can be a challenging discussion. One way to handle this conversation is by getting curious about what the child is seeing and experiencing which is leading them to ask questions. Being an attentive listener will help you recognize if your child is struggling with body judgment.
Some helpful responses include:
- Reminding them that their body is special and unique. No two bodies are the same.
- Acknowledging how people have different heights, eye colors, and weights will normalize body differences.
- Encourage gratitude for all that their body does for them on a daily basis.
If you as a parent are concerned medically with your child’s weight, refrain from discussing it with your child. Doing so may lead to internalized shame and can play out in a number of harmful ways. Instead, you could find enjoyable ways for your child to engage in more movement, discover new delicious foods for them to try to encourage variety, and have family meals that are a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and fruits or vegetables.
Children are very attuned to their caregivers and other adult figures in their lives. They recognize authenticity amongst their adult figures. Telling them something that you think they should hear and then modeling different behaviors can be confusing for children struggling to understand their relationship to their own and other bodies. Above all, trying to not displace your own fear or anxiety around weight onto your child will be the most beneficial to their relationship to their body size. Accepting a child as they grow will foster their own self-acceptance and confidence.
If you are struggling with your own negative body image and would like support in healing it, we are happy to speak with you. Click below to schedule a call with an Evolve clinician who is trained in healing one’s relationship with food and body.
Written by Leah Ehinger, MSW, ASW, RYT