The Goddard School of Waukee issued the following announcement on Aug. 7
How Negative Self-Talk Affects Children
Recently, I was in a fitting room at a local clothing store when I overheard an all-too-common sigh of disgust. The woman who sighed said that she couldn’t believe how much weight she’d gained, that she was going to start a new diet immediately and that she was so gross. The laundry list of insults continued.
Normally, I could ignore something like this, but the barrage against her body didn’t stop. Then, I heard her teenage daughter chime in about running and dieting.
My stomach dropped. She was eviscerating her body in front of her daughter.
Unfortunately, this is commonplace. We’re taught through social media, movies, TV shows and advertising that being fat is bad.
Even children as young as three begin to perceive thin as good and fat as bad (Cramer & Steinwert, 1998).
While we can’t control everything our children see and hear, we can control the messages they consume at home.
Here are some ideas for being more mindful about how bodies are discussed in your family.
1. Pay attention to your words.
We’ve all been frustrated when clothes are too snug, but our bodies won’t always stay the same size. Our weights will fluctuate over time, which is normal. Before you decide to say negative things about your body, check in with yourself. What will it accomplish? Who will hear you say it?
What we say about ourselves around our children, even if we don’t think they’re listening, stays with them. A recent study found that when young girls overheard family members’ self-deprecating body talk, their risk of disordered eating and their likelihood of having a poor body image significantly increased (Webb, Rogers, Etzel & Padro, 2018).
I’ve made a conscious effort to stop speaking negatively about my body in front of my son. I made a pact with myself while I was pregnant that he would never hear me say anything bad about my appearance because negative body talk affects all children.
2. Don’t comment on your child’s weight.
I remember my aunt grabbing my thigh and asking whether I should really have another helping of food. She thought it was hysterical, and I was ashamed. I was in my early teens and already struggled with body image issues. Looking back, I was healthy and fit, but I didn’t see myself that way.
At their mildest, comments such as the one my aunt made may lead to weight and body dissatisfaction into adulthood (Wansink, Latimer & Pope, 2016). One study found that being labeled “too fat” at age 10 was a significant predictor of obesity at age 19. The likelihood was strongest when the comments came from family members.
Even if you think you’re delivering your message gently, talking about someone else’s weight is unkind. If you’re concerned about your child being overweight, experts recommend having
the family make lifestyle changes together. Get outside and play more, serve nutritionally balanced meals and always focus on health rather than weight (Wolfram, 2019). You can also always talk to your child’s pediatrician.
3. Talk to your children.
It’s so simple, but talking to your children can help put issues into perspective. If you’re watching a movie and the characters are making jokes about a person’s weight, remind your children that this is bullying. Explain to your children that it’s not nice to make fun of anyone for how they look.
Be mindful of how you speak about other people’s bodies.
Here are a few unhelpful phrases:
He’s gained weight. He looks better;
He’s gained weight. He looks worse;
She should always wear makeup;
She looks better without makeup;
She should dress for her size;
She should cover up her body;
I would never wear that if I looked like him.
4. Show them a diverse range of body types.
Choose books and movies with a diverse cast of characters. Show them that larger bodies exist and that those bodies matter just as much as smaller bodies. Look for shows that also feature people with disabilities and people who are gender-nonconforming.
What do you do to help your children feel comfortable in their bodies?
Original source can be found here.
Source: The Goddard School of Waukee