6 Powerful Ways To Raise Confident, Body-Positive Kids

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How To Teach Your Kids To Love All Body Types
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As a parent, one of the most heartbreaking things to witness is when your child doesn't love themselves as much as you love them.

You watch their little bodies grow from infancy to adulthood in awe every step of the way, but for them, these changes often bring nothing but increasing feelings of negativity and self-loathing.

In an era where children are growing up surrounded by media, it’s impossible to shield your children from the toxic imagery that creates a hierarchy of bodies, deeming only certain traits beautiful and worthy of representation.

That said, you can still arm your children with the necessary tools to love themselves and have body positivity, in spite of what society tells them. 

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The Body Positive Movement challenges stereotypes and lack of diversity, teaching us that difference is beautiful and there is no right way to be yourself. Raising your child to be immersed in this movement not only strengthens their relationship with themselves, but improves their ability to shine positivity, love, and change into the world around them.

Since children become hyper-aware of their bodies in adolescence or sooner, it never too early to start teaching your child about self-love and body positivity. Here's how to build confidence in kids, practice acceptance, and celebrate diversity. 

1. Watch your language.

Their ears might be little, but kids hear everything. If you’re using negative language about your own appearance or someone else’s, your children are likely to replicate this kind of behavior in their own lives.

By talking down on certain body types, you’re teaching your child that there are right and wrong ways to look. They will begin to assess their own appearances to see if they have the necessary traits to be deemed beautiful or worthy of self-love.

Ban discussions about weight or dieting, and avoid commenting on personal appearances. Instead, focus on telling your child they are perfect the way they are! They are strong, smart, and talented. 

2. Never label foods as 'good' or 'bad.'

Toxic diet culture is all around us and can be incredibly damaging for young people.

While it's important to educate your children on nutrition and health, labeling foods as either “good” or “bad” creates an unhealthy relationship between food and feelings, causing them to feel guilt or self-loathing after eating certain foods.

Equally, having strict rules around what children can and cannot eat may cause them to sneak forbidden foods and lead to overeating. Instead, it's much more valuable to inform your children about the nutrients in different foods and what these nutrients do for our bodies. This way, they can make informed decisions in their own diets.

Teach them that calories are needed for energy, and are not something that should be avoided or burned. Have them cook with you or help out planning meals. 

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3. Embrace the differences in bodies.

Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. No one is more or less beautiful than anyone else, they just look different. And how boring would the world be if we all looked the same?

It’s important that your children are aware that no body type is superior over another.

If you catch them commenting on someone’s appearance, explain to them that everyone is beautiful in their way. Explain to them that their body will change many times throughout their life, that their friends will have different bodies to them, and that no physical difference will make them less deserving of love. 

4. Call out stereotypes.

Since so much of what we learn about beauty standards and ideal body type comes from our media, it's essential that you consistently interrogate these stereotypes with your children so they know to ignore toxic portrayals of idolized appearances.

Engage in discussion around media representation from a young age. Ask your child how they feel about different characters on TV. Do they see enough heavyset toys? Or toys with ethnic diversity?

Question why the media portrays men as strong when women can be just as capable. Or why we rarely see male characters show emotion. Point out photo editing in magazines or advertisements that make skin look unnaturally smooth or edit body shapes.

If you can, provide them with plenty of books, TV shows, and toys that celebrate differences and diversity.

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5. Focus on feelings, not appearance.

We’re often conditioned to make links between how we look on the outside and how we feel on the inside when, in reality, these two things are not really linked.

When raising body-positive children, abandon discussions around physical appearance as much as possible. Instead, teach your child to fall in love with their intelligence, their talents, and their kindness. Compliment their behavior rather than their looks.

Instead of letting your child obsess over the size of their thighs, teach them that these legs help them stand tall and carry them. Their stomach rolls protect their essential organs. Their hair texture was inherited from all of their incredible ancestors.

When your children can’t always feel beautiful on the outside, at least they will know that their body is just a vessel that carries everything that makes them great on the inside. 

6. Get to the root of their confidence issues.

Try as we may, we cannot protect our children from everything. Even if you do everything right, some children will end up exhibiting toxic and unhealthy behaviors in relation to their bodies.

When this happens, it’s important to not worry about the specific traits they’re demonstrating but, rather, the circumstances that are causing these behaviors.

Maybe they’re anxious about school or family life and are stress-eating as a result, leading to unexpected weight gain. Maybe they feel out of control about certain aspects of their life and are obsessing over their diet as a means of trying to gain back authority. Maybe something is causing your child to be unhappy and they are overexercising in order to regain joy.

Honest, open discussion with your child will help you gain a better understanding of what help they need. Be sure to educate your child on eating disorders and mental health so they have the tools to recognize unhealthy patterns of behavior. 

RELATED: 5 Signs Your Relationship With Exercise Is Extremely Toxic

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Alice Kelly is a writer and storyteller with a passion for lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics. When she’s not creating content for YourTango, you can catch her working on creative fiction and vintage shopping.

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