“Why is that person so big?” my daughter asked. We were standing in the cereal aisle and a woman I didn’t know stood a few feet away. Her attention drifted from the shelves and pooled on the floor.
She heard—and quickly walked away.
I tossed a box of Honey Nut Cheerios into our cart, my ears reddening. I wanted so badly to apologize, but it would be weird to run after her. I wanted to anyway. I knew I had failed this other woman, a stranger. I had failed my daughter and myself, as well.
After that day, I began to discuss the beauty of all bodies with my two daughters. Here are three hacks to model and discuss body positivity with kids:
Find Joy in the Journey
My body has changed so much, sometimes I feel like a Transformer. I could obsess over my stretch marks, drooping belly button or the fact that my quarantine snacks have taken my favorite jeans out of rotation. Instead, I’m grateful. Those stretch marks remind me that my body grew two humans I love. So, when my girls giggle as I wiggle and shimmy into my best skinny jeans, I join in. Laughing at myself is a playful and stress-reducing choice. It teaches children that bodies change but joy lives on if we let it.
Be Open to Questions
After we left the grocery store that day, I buckled my daughter into her car seat and slid behind the wheel. It was Spring and the sun’s warmth had left its greeting. The car felt cozy, and womb-like. I turned to my daughter.
“Sweetie, you can ask me anything you want, but I want to make sure we are in a quiet space by ourselves if you have questions about others,” I said.
“Okay, but why mama?” she asked.
“Body shapes and sizes are all different. If we use words like fat it sometimes hurts people’s feelings. Find something beautiful about everyone. Be kind,” I said.
More teachable moments have followed and I’ve been better at responding thoughtfully and respectfully to my girls. Children ask a lot of questions and parents have to be ready. Make time to answer, even briefly. Don’t put off conversations about the human body, how it works and why we ought to celebrate every body.
Be Open with Your Family
The day in the grocery store was the first, but not the only, time I’ve discussed body positivity with my girls. I’ve pushed the topic with other family members, too.
“I’m so fat,” said a relative. He gestured at his belly, then poked it. My daughters looked amused.
“You aren’t showing kindness to yourself,” I said.
“Yeah! Be nice to yourself!” my eldest daughter said as she ran to him. She tossed her small arms around his leg and hugged it as though demonstrating how he might love himself better.
“You know what,” he said, “you’re right.”
I was proud of my daughter’s response. She was teaching what she learned. I knew then that our conversations, though brief and age-appropriate, had a positive impact.
These three hacks have set the stage to help my girls grow into a positive relationship with their bodies. My daughters are more respectful of other people’s bodies, too. I expect other public situations might ignite difficult discussions in the future but the foundation of mindfulness we’re building will help my daughters extend kindness to others, whoever they might be.
Photo Credit: Thet Tun Aung of Unsplash