How do we give our kids body confidence?

Pictured: me at Golden Bay back in 1985.

Our kids live in a world where they are pressured from every inch of society to be thin and look a certain way. They are bombarded with messages about the thin ideal, from:

Well meaning health professionals telling our kids it’s good to be thin and bad to be fat

Teachers giving health lessons and telling the kids certain foods will make them “chubby”

magazines, social media, gym adverts all telling us that thin is good, abs are good, fat is bad, love handles are bad, curvy bodies are bad

food marketers with their “guilt free” foods

our loved ones making flippant comments about our and our children’s body, their weight gain, weight loss, appearance, too thin, too chubby….

You name the place they get this diet culture message slammed at them from every direction.

When you live in a society that values thin and young. This makes it very difficult to feel valued if you are not thin and not young.

Kids are smart. They pick up stuff super quick, even if you are sneaky, they’ll know. I was 6 when I first asked my mum how to lose weight. She told me to not eat lollies and suck in my stomach. It wasn’t the worst answer, but I don’t recommend it as a strategy! I don’t know how young I was when I first worked out she thought she was fat (she wasn’t), but I’m guessing it was way before I voiced my concerns about my own weight. If you think you are fat, are unhappy with your body, have lost or gained weight. Your kids will know.

So how do we create confident kids, who feel safe in their body and valued no matter what their size?

It starts with you. With us as the parents. We NEED to be body positive ourselves. If you don’t feel confident in your own body, then fake it til you make it. Avoid commenting about your body in any way that’s negative. Your kids don’t care about your size, presence of cellulite, saggy boobs or large bum. So why should you? If you are wanting to lose weight, don’t tell them, eat normally in front of them, avoid diet and body talk.

Do talk about your body in a way that is positive. How you can run, jump, lift stuff. Squishy tummies make for comfortable cuddles, big boobs are great for comfy pillows! Try not to look at the details of your body, we can all find flaws with bits of us we don’t like. But if we change our focus and look at us at a whole, we really do look amazing.

So what can you say to your kids?

Focus on what their body can do:

“It’s not the size of our body that matters. What matters about our body is that it’s healthy. A healthy body will have energy to run and jump and play. A healthy body will be able to learn at school and concentrate when we need to. A healthy body will have enough energy to do the things we enjoy. A healthy body will sleep well at night. A healthy body will feel good!

The size of their body does not equal their value as a person:

“What matters about YOU, is that you’re kind, have empathy for others, admit when you are wrong and always do your best. You can be all these things in any sized body.”

When they point out your wobbly bits and ask about it

Accept it. Yes my body is like this. No I don’t care. Yes I love my body. I am MARVELOUS regardless of my size or shape.

Miss 8: Mum your tummy is wrinkly like an old mans face
Me: Of course it is. I. Had. THREE. Kids! That means my stomach stretched out three times and now my skin is loose. This is a normal mummy tummy!

Miss 10: Mum, why is your button of your jeans undone?
Me: Because my jeans are too tight and this is more comfortable.
Miss 10: Why?
Me: Because I’ve put on weight and now my jeans don’t fit that well anymore
Miss 10: Really?! How come?
Me: *shrugs* Don’t know (this is a lie. I’ve been eating a lot of biscuits, but she doesn’t need to know that 😂) And I don’t care! (I actually don’t care, is so freeing). Next winter, I’ll just buy new jeans that fit better. (or eat less biscuits but she doesn’t need to know that either!)

When they tell you they are fat, and they are

“Sure, *said matter of factly, being bigger is NOT a big deal! (no pun intended!)* you are bigger than most kids. Tell me, why does that matter?”

You’re worried about their weight and want to know what to do

Remember the division of responsibility. As the parent, it’s your job to provide them meals at the times that you choose. It’s your job to make sure there is a table to sit at and a nice calm atmosphere for eating. It’s your kiddies job to choose what they eat and how much from what is offered.

Because it’s their job to choose how much to eat, it’s really not appropriate for you to comment if they are eating too much or too little. This is very hard to do! But it’s their body, they are the only ones who know how much food they need. This will differ over time, as they grow and have growth spurts. Some days they’ll eat heaps, others very little. Trusting them to do this is crucial. Instead….

Encourage your kiddies to listen to their tummy, to tune into their hunger signals, to recognise how they feel after they eat, did that food make their body feel good? How does their tummy feel, sore? sick? grumbly? satisfied? too full? just full enough? empty? Are they still hungry? Does their body need a second helping? Are they tummy hungry or head hungry? Tummy hunger is slow to arrive, builds up over time and if you are a little bit hungry can feel good, because its time for a meal or snack. Head hunger can be quick to arrive and usually only one type of food will fix it. head hunger is emotional eating… but that’s a whole other topic!

Still worried?

If your child has always been at the 95th percentile for their weight, it’s likely that the 95th percentile is normal for them. What we need our kiddies to do is grow predictably in a way that is healthy for them. Some kids will be on the 3rd percentile and that will be healthy for them, some on the 50th, some on the 95th. Some kids are bigger, some kids are smaller. That’s totally normal! If your kid has had a dramatic weight drop or weight gain, it may pay to see a medical professional to make sure there is nothing medical going on. Different conditions can cause weight loss, faltering growth or weight gain. So if you have any concerns see a weight neutral professional.

Want help with your kiddy’s eating? Need help and support implementing the division of responsibility? Worried about your kiddy’s weight, fussy eating or eating behaviours?

Book a consultation, I can help!

Or phone for a no obligation chat as to how I can help.