Lack of confidence and poor body image can start very young. Kids are bombarded by social media images on what a perfect body looks like and where that outer beauty can get you in life. If our young impressionable minds are flooded with these “perfect” images, how else are they supposed to feel other than not good enough and unworthy? As part of this culture, we as the adults/parents/caregivers must present different ideas of what beauty is and convince our little ones that they are perfect just the way they are.
How does one go about doing this? Here are a few suggestions I hope will help you navigate this minefield of sensitive thoughts and feelings:
- Encourage kids to really get to know who they are and to be comfortable in their skin. Help them to focus on their likes, dislikes, what they’re good at, their interests, what they enjoy doing, what they enjoy wearing, what they like to talk about, what makes them happy, sad or angry. If they grow up with the habit of getting to know themselves internally, they will grow up more secure and confident.
- Challenge kids to see themselves not just as a body but as a whole person with thoughts, ideas, goals, dreams, opinions, feelings, likes and dislikes. Continually reinforce the notion that they are complex, unique and one of a kind and that’s a good thing.
- Help them to build a strong moral and value code so they can make positive decisions and stay true to who they really are. Talk about what it feels like when they do something they know is wrong. If they stay true to themselves they will be less likely to wander astray and choose friends who feel and act as they do. They will be confident to say no when tempted to do something they don’t feel right about.
- Guide kids to realize they are responsible for their own happiness. When they know they are in charge they will less likely become a victim to someone else’s actions or behaviours.
- Reinforce the notion that no one can know anyone’s thoughts. When kids start to worry about what other people are thinking of them, help them to examine where that worry is coming from. Most likely, it is a question in their own mind, something they are not comfortable with or are unsure of. It’s coming from within themselves not other people. Help them to know they can not control other people’s thoughts so they need to focus their energy on making their own thoughts of themselves positive and kind.
- It’s important for kids to have time in their own company with no expectations to do anything productive other than doing something soothing and enjoyable. Encourage them to do activities that they enjoy; journaling, listening to music, taking a nap, painting fingernails, watching a movie or TV show, doing a puzzle, drawing. It’s important that kids have time to relax without the stress of chores, homework, social commitments or extracurricular activities.
- Forgive them when they do something wrong or forget to do something you asked of them or didn’t do so well on their report card. Communicate your feelings, listen to their reasons, forgive them, encourage them to forgive themselves, talk about how to do things different and move on. Kids need to know they are human and will make mistakes. It doesn’t mean they are a bad person or a loss cause. They need to know you love them unconditionally.
- Get kids to think about how they speak to themselves and about themselves. Help them to redirect negative speak and replace it with positive sweet talk. Ask them, “Would you talk to your friends this way?”
- Teach them the importance of receiving love from others with no strings attached. Receive a compliment or a gift with no expectation of reciprocating. A simple thank you is all that is required because they are worthy of and deserving of love simply because of who they are not what they have to offer.
- Teach them kindness, patience, self-love, self-care, gratefulness, forgiveness, boundary setting, appreciation, faith and asking for help by your own example. Do what you want them to do. Be who you want them to be. Follow all of your own advice so they can see you living your truth and that what you are saying for them to do is no more than what you ask of yourself.
- Give out lots of compliments about their achievements not their looks. Help them realize that what they do is far more important then how they look.
- Say, “I love you.” constantly so your kids grow up knowing they are cherished and valued. They need to know they are important and the world is so much better because they are in it.
- Never deny them help when they ask for it. It takes a lot of courage to show vulnerability and pain so react when they need reassurance and if it’s not a problem that can be solved within the home, seek out professional help. Teenage years are complicated and messy so it may be a time in life that you are not everything your child needs. Some problems are too big for Mom or Dad to deal with alone and there is no shame in sharing the burdens. Looking for outside assistance also teaches your offspring that they don’t need to feel embarrassed or overwhelmed by their problems and concerns. They are not alone and help is available in lots of different ways.
- Provide a secure and stable home life. Kids can’t possibly grow up loving themselves if their environment is unpredictable, frightening or sad.
These are a select few suggestions that will hopefully help you and your young people navigate the body positive journey early enough in a child’s life that they can grow up feeling Pretty, Plus and Proud rather than still dealing with self-doubt and negativity when they’re old like me, lol!