Body image survival guide for parents

To celebrate her new book, The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents, Marci Warhaft-Nadler shares crucial tips on kids' body image for parents.

Body image issues in boys and girls as young as five years old are on the rise at rocket speed. The negative, critical messages from society and the media can be loud — which is why it’s so important that our positive, healthy messages as parents are even louder!

The toughest thing in the world for parents is to see their child struggling and not know how to help. But parents don’t have to be powerless. We’ve all heard about babyproofing our homes when our kids are born to keep them safe from things like electrical sockets and sharp edges on tables, but what about “Body image proofing” our homes to ensure that our kids grow up with the self-confidence they deserve?

Here are some tips to help you do exactly that:

Say goodbye to fashion and fitness magazines
Stash away the fashion and fitness magazines you’ve got lying around the house. Even if your kids are too young to read the magazines, just seeing the one-size-fits-all types of bodies so many of them feature can encourage unrealistic expectations for their own bodies as they grow up. Instead, make sure you have lots of family photo albums around for them to look through, so they can see family and friends of all shapes and sizes.

Read more: How to build your child’s self-esteem>

Make your home fat-talk free
Kids don’t need to worry about fat grams and calorie counts and certainly don’t need to hear the adults in their lives putting their bodies down or engaging in diet talk. Cousin Sue may want to lose 15 pounds, and Aunt Sylvia may hate her thighs, but your kids do NOT need to hear about it.

Compliment yourself (and make sure your kids hear you do it)
Instead of complaining about what you don’t like about yourself, let your kids hear you praise yourself, instead. For example, try saying things like, “I love my arms because I can use them to hug you, roll cookie dough and throw a Frisbee!” or “I love my tummy because it was your home for nine months.” By hearing you being kind to yourself, your kids will learn how to be kind to themselves.

Bring fun into the kitchen, and keep fear out of it
We want to encourage healthy, positive relationships with food from a very young age. So, let your kids participate in meal preparations. Talk about the ingredients you’re using. Have your older kids choose recipes and help you prepare them; younger kids can hang out in the kitchen, sampling and learning about different foods. Just spending time together this way will create a positive atmosphere around food. Eating will be seen as something good we do to nurture our bodies — not something we’ll be afraid of doing for fear we’ll get fat.

Read more: Baking with kids: 15 tips to have fun (and stay sane)>

Disconnect from electronics, and reconnect with each other
A great activity to do with your kids to make a list of all the people you admire. These role models could be celebrities you’ve never met or people you see in your day-to-day life. Once your list is made, take turns describing why they inspire you. This can be very powerful because, chances are, the role models are chosen for who they are or what they’ve accomplished, and not for how they look. This is a great way to teach substance over image.

If you want, you can take it a step further by visiting your community police stations, fire stations and hospitals where your kids can see what real-life heroes look like and that even heroes come in different shapes and body types.

Self-worth shouldn’t be measured in pounds.

Get more information on Marci Warhaft-Nadler’s Fit vs Fiction body image workshops for schools on her website. You can order her book on her website or online at amazon.ca.

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