Part 1: Negative Body Image Influences as Early as Age 9...Help Your Child Combat Negative Body Image Influences
Shut Up Little Voices!
My husband and I have two beautiful healthy little girls. I have often wondered at what age they would begin to critique themselves and their appearance. I can not remember a time in my own youth that I didn't think I should be on a diet. I've never weighed over 120 pounds (except when pregnant) but I have always thought that I was fat. My rational mind knows that a 5'1" person at 120 pounds is not fat. Knowing this, however, didn't stop the voices in my head from convincing me that I was indeed fat. Even when I could convince myself that I wasn't fat I would still consider various body parts to be less than desirable. "My thighs are fat." Or, "If only I could get rid of that little bump at the bottom of my belly I'd be ok." Or, "My calves are huge...where did these Popeye legs come from?" SHUT UP LITTLE VOICES!
The Beginning of My Body Image Issues: Thanks Mom!
As a child I can remember my Mother (who possibly weighed 90 pounds soaking wet) proclaim the beginning of one new diet after another. She never ate more than a couple bites from her plate. She was tiny! She was my Mother and she was perfectly beautiful. I wanted to be just like her. But if she thought she was fat then I must have been morbidly obese - at least that's what my young impressionable mind translated the situation to mean. So, there we have it - the beginning of my body image issues.
Perfect Parenting - "Easy, Right?"
Determined to not repeat history I have always tried very diligently to eat a balanced diet and workout in front of my children. As soon as my children could talk they would ask when we were leaving for the gym each morning after breakfast. I never discuss my insecurities in front of my children. I want them to view me as a confident woman that they would like to model themselves after. I'm doing a great job with my parenting...it's all so easy, right? How is it that so many people get this wrong? HA Think again!
The Moment All of My Perfect Parenting Crumbled
Recently as I drove my 9 year old daughter and her friends to gymnastics class my perfect parenting crumbled. I overheard their conversation in the back seat. One of my daughter's friends declared that she would no longer be wearing a 2 piece swim suit as she hates her fat stomach. This child is very thin. I'm not sure that a single fat cell exists in her body. How could she possibly be having these thoughts about herself? And at age 9?
Years of Hurt Ahead...
My first response was pure shock and then sadness. My heart hurts for these sweet girls who have years of figuring out everything they don't like about themselves ahead of them. Can we just skip these years? Skip the tweens, the teens, the dating, the comparing themselves to others and picking out all of their faults?
I'm beginning to understand that the influences on who my children turn out to be and how much they like or dislike themselves reach far and wide. As their mother I play a tremendously important role in helping them learn to turn out all of the negativity and love themselves. Perhaps I should start by learning these things for myself.
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