Updated: Oct 23
As summer break rolls around it is hard not to be bombarded with all the typical messaging around beach bodies, getting fit, and being thin. These messages are not new, and in recent years the pushback against these messages has grown alongside awareness of the harm that they cause.
Being a young woman in Canada, surrounded by cosmopolitan magazine, weight watchers ads, and then entering young adulthood with things like facebook and instagram, it's hard to miss the struggles that come from the summertime focus on physical appearance. The inner battle of eating and dieting and trying to get the "perfect" body and trying to love yourself can feel impossible.
Then, when you become a parent, even with a rise of body positivity, and even if you work hard to protect your kids from the same damaging messages, they can seep in and catch you by surprise. That's the thing about parenting- we aren't the only influences our kids have. So how do you raise kids with healthy body image and self esteem? Here are some things that can help:
Refrain from negative self-talk and avoid commenting on other people's bodies. As I mentioned above, this can be hard. Do your best, and really make a committment to yourself to keep negative judgments about bodies to yourself. Catch yourself if you mess up and try again.
Emphasize the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle rather than a specific body type. You truly can be healthy at any size, and shifting focus to moving the body you have and filling it with good foods not only helps with body image, but exercise and nutrition play a huge role in mental and emotional well-being.
Model positive self-talk and body confidence. You may have to "fake it til you make it" at first, but focusing on positive self-talk will help your kids develop better self-talk, but also, it will help shift your mental health as well. Practicing positive self-talk and confidence trains your brain to look for more positive things, rather than focusing on nit-picking all the "flaws" you see, which results in feeling better overall.
Have open conversations about ads, pressure, feelings about body image, etc. Let your kids tell you about their struggles, and help them build media literacy- recognizing that ads and social media images are heavily photoshopped and that human bodies are all shapes and sizes.
Work on mental health and self-care. You will have hard days. You will have struggles ont his journey of self-love. If you make mental health and self-care practices a regular part of your life, you will have more resilience when dealing with the hard stuff. Mindfulness practices, yoga, and meditation can help increase self-awareness and self-acceptance, and promote a positive relationship with your body.
We are far from living free from body image pressures, and summer is the time these pressures increase. As parents, we may have our own negative body image issues to
unpack and work on while trying to support our little humans.
There is no perfect recipe that guarantees your kids won't be impacted
by societal beauty standards, but i
our children can have a chance at better mental and emotional wellness, and increased self-esteem.
So, step out onto your self-love journey and take your kids along with you. All bodies are summer bodies if they exist in the summer! And let me know how you are resisting the pressure this summer!
-Alana, Summer Loving Lunar Light Counsellor