Hello my beautiful fudgies!
Oh, kids! (i love talking about children like i am an elder with my 17 and 11 months of life experience)
The values they are taught and the people they grow up to be will not only affect their own futur, but the ones of those around them.
So we know how important it is to set a good example and bla bla bla. Nevertheless, we also know that we are not perfect beings, and sometimes we are not conscious of the messages we are sending the younger generation. How do you raise, mentor, teach, tutor, or babysit a child in a body positive environment?
I have worked with kids a lot, both for the FP and on my own time, so I have learned a few concrete steps that you can take to properly educate your young friend on the right and wrong ways to treat their body, both physically and psychologically.
1. Food is a friend, not a foe
It is probably no shock for you to hear that environments where diets, food guilt and fat shaming are present on a regular basis have been proven to be the building blocks of an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead of treating meals and snacks like the enemy you have to suppress, hide, and feel ashamed of, speak of their nutritious value as the charger that keeps your energy battery up and running. Food makes you grow strong and tall and healthy, and that's all it should be. So instead of constantly hammering on about the amount of calories certain items contain, focus on their source of protein, vitamin and calcium. And don't forget to mention that not all fats or carbs should be avoided like the plague, because like all things in life, it's about moderation.
2. Coping Strategies
It's a very common, yet unhealthy stereotype for women to drown their tears in a pit of Ben n Jerrys. And while I am definitively pro-ice cream, these aren't the coping mechanisms we want to instil in young kids. By teaching kids that food can be a healer, you change to way they visualize food, and often that healer will turn into a self harm weapon, by restriction, binging or purging. It it therefor vital to redirect feelings of overwhelming stress, sadness, anger, etc. towards a releasing activity. For quiet, more focused kids, visual arts, writing and music are some key examples, or for the more active child, accessible physical activity of any kind, like running, kick boxing, karate or other self-defense classes, the list goes on. Kids pick up habits and reflexes quicker than adults, and if the pattern sticks, they can stay with them for the entirety of their lives. By teaching them that food is not the answer to their problems, you also teach them to respect their bodies, because the relationship between emotional eating behaviours and eating disorders in a Venn diagram is often a circle.
3. The Talk
One of our greatest shortcomings, in my opinion, regarding kids, is how frequently we assume. We assume that they know about the media, unrepresentative and manipulated images and the psychology behind marketing. We assume that because we tell them they are beautiful they automatically believe it. We assume that they understand that bodies come in all different shapes and sizes, and that one size does not fit all. But the reality of the situation is that we often assume wrong. Sure, they hear snippets of wisdom from their older sister or their soccer coach, but how many adults actually sit them down with a magazine and explain why those people look that way? How many adults explain what really makes someone beautiful, and with the help of a mirror point out all the wonderfully imperfect things about the child that make him or her beautiful? How many adults explain bone structure, the relationship between weight, height, and muscle mass, and the reasons why everyone's body should be respected? My guess is very few. And it's a shame, because if the ones who see the world in its complexity cannot open the innocent eyes of today's youth, who will?
I hope you all have a wonderful week:)