It’s that time of year again — “Back to School” season for many children across the globe. Along with school supplies, clothes, and bus schedules there are several things that are important in helping children prepare for a new academic year.
Although the main purpose of school is academic education, socialization is also a major factor in determining just how enjoyable and successful a child’s school year will be. As a body image activist,I remember how influential body image was during my adolescent and teen years in school. How I felt about my body, how I compared myself to other girls my age, and even how I desired attention from boys all influenced my behavior and socialization at school. These days children are focusing on body image at an even younger age. With all the beauty and image messages being sent via visual and social media children are constantly inundated with ideas of what they should look like in order to be valued and accepted. Of course, there is also the influence of peer pressure from other children around them and bullying is a major issue that they must contend with as well. So with all of the challenges that children have to face in regards to healthy body image, how do we help prepare them to be secure and successful? Here’s three simple ABC’s to keep in mind for back to school body love with children:
– Affirm children with body positive dialogue, activities, and interaction. Healthy body image is definitely supported by positive affirmations of body love and acceptance. Some great ways to do that are:
- Making a body love board with pictures of the child accompanied by positive words about their body and themselves
- Writing body positive messages using a dry erase marker on the mirror where the child can see them
- Using technology to make body positive videos for the child or with the child, discussing ways that they are beautiful inside and out
– Be a great example of what a body positive lifestyle looks like. Children model what they see more than what they hear. They notice how we speak about our own bodies as adults. The pay attention to what we say about other people’s bodies around us. Our behaviors are the best way to show body love in action. None of us are perfect, but we must keep in mind that children are learning from what we are doing. Even if you slip up and make a negative comment about yourself or others, don’t be afraid to correct yourself in front of the child and explain why you were wrong. Even mistakes are great teachable moments for ourselves and the children we care for.
– Communicate with children by having a discussion around what they feel about their bodies. Even though we give body positive messages to children, just like us, they still have insecurities or things that bother them about their bodies or themselves. By asking probing questions and listening intently to their answers we can find out the areas where they may need more support. Here are some discussion questions to help you get started:
- What are the favorite parts of your body?
- Why are they your favorite?
- What are the things you like most about yourself?
- Are there any things that you don’t like about yourself?
- Why don’t you like them?
- What can we do to help you feel better about those things?
- What does beautiful mean to you?
- Do you believe that you are beautiful?
- What makes you beautiful?
By affirming children, being an authentic example, and communicating openly with children we can help them begin a lifelong healthy, loving relationship with their bodies. How awesome it will be to watch them grow up and embrace themselves lovingly and passionately flaws and all!
- Do you have any rituals or routines that you do to empower children to be body positive?
- Have you noticed particular challenges that children around you face with body image?
- Do you believe that the body affirming ideas given will help you support the children in your life?