After reading our letters to our bodies, one of our readers (hi, Rebecca!) wrote asking:
“I would be interested in knowing how you would, after all this reflection, recommend a parent to help their child feel like they are “enough.” It seems like all of this pressure to be skinny/heavier/perfecter/more/less really detracts from being able to enjoy what should be a wonderful part of your life. How do you think we fix this on an individual and on a societal level?”
As part of our class meeting this week, we worked in small groups on answering her question.
We love that you are even asking these questions. For some of us, we haven’t had that experience of being able to talk to a parent or a caregiver about our bodies. Our advice is to keep asking these types of questions – but also to ask them in front of your children. Instead of critiquing your own body or the bodies of others, have open conversations with your kids about how culture and society shapes our experiences about our bodies. Instead of telling your children, “Instagram filters aren’t real,” ask them, “what do you think changes when we use filters?” Instead of telling your child, “you are beautiful,” ask them, “what do you think is beautiful about yourself?” Instead of telling your children, “dieting isn’t a good idea,” try asking, “why do you feel like you need to diet? what can we do to help you feel healthy and strong?” By shifting into a conversation, you open up space for children to share their feelings and opinions and take agency over their bodies. You’ll still accomplish the same thing you want to tell them, but instead of ignoring you, you will help them engage in self-realization. Good luck – parenting is hard!
On an individual level, as a parent, people could try doing side-by-side comparisons with their children to show them that whatever they might think is wrong is normal. Parents can also leave post-it notes around for their children to show words of encouragement or show how they should be treated. They can also constantly reassure their children that they are enough and encourage them to brush off things people might have to say about them. On a societal level, parents can limit the use of social media and talk to their children (starting young) about social media literacy. People could also offer classes to encourage parents on how to parent efficiently and how to support each other as they ask these types of questions.
- Adults could ask about what children experience or think
- Let children celebrate their bodies without downplaying what they like
- Discuss appropriate development through puberty (start young)
- Be supportive regardless of their choices
- As a parent, educate yourself regarding your child’s choices and life experiences. This will keep an open dialogue.
- Most of the things a child goes through is a phase, go through it with them rather than pushing them back.
Being a parent to a child this age is a science that is not nearly researched enough. We believe after much reflection that the first step in parenting so that your child believes they are enough is in believing YOU TOO ARE ENOUGH. This model of self confidence and self love will create a body positive space in which your child can grow. Another tip we recommend is encouraging your child to pursue hobbies. IN doing so, they will be able to learn to love their body for its abilities and capacities. With that, once they have an interest in particular field(s), you can introduce them to photos and books of professionals in that field, whether it be artists or athletes, writers or scientists. People of all abilities, shapes, and sizes are in all fields, and seeing them will help your child understand that. They are enough, and so is your child, and so are you.
We believe that the most important thing is to create a “no fear zone” to entice openness and opportunities for children to ask questions, express their opinions, and voice their challenges. Throughout their lives, they’re going to always have problems and failures, and they aren’t going to make everyone happy at all times. By not sugar coating this harsh world, children will be able to evolve into their true selves while reciting their parents support. The hard part of this is that you have to actually be nonjudgemental and open to hearing things you might not want to hear, but we promise, it’s worth it.