I think about how often we talk about teaching children to be healthy…but how often does that conversation include discussion around the “health” myths that are perpetuated by society or the need to simultaneously teach children (and young girls especially) the importance of also nurturing a positive, self-loving body image?
Now don’t get me wrong…I DO think teaching children to make healthy choices is a good idea. But I ALSO think that we need to acknowledge that young girls are also taught that thinness is an essential part of that…even if it comes through unhealthy means.
“But Becky,” you may say, “that’s not what I’M telling my children, nieces, friends’ kids, etc.” And you’re right, you most likely aren’t!
But what are your behavior, your choices, and your mindset around body, food, exercise, health, etc. telling them? And, if the answer is “super healthy and empowering things,” which I know may be the case, then I just want to remind you that even if YOU are promoting health in its purest, truest sense, huge sections of society aren’t.
So unless young women are being locked away from the world, they are likely receiving some very negative messaging, whether we recognize it or not. And because no one else is going to help them navigate that experience, it falls to us.
So how do we support young women and girls with their body image and sense of self?
Stop focusing on appearance-based validation.
Highlight health-related attributes of food and body, like eating nutrient-dense foods across the color spectrum (while remembering not to label any food as “bad”) or engaging in activities that develop strength and flexibility.
Teach them how to navigate unwanted or unhelpful feedback about their bodies…or anyone else’s.
Be mindful of how you talk to yourself, and find ways to improve your own body image if needed.
Encourage them to be mentored by women who will empower them, both in real life and through the various media they consume.
Not sure what some of this looks like or where to start? Reply back and let’s chat!