4 Ways to Teach Kids About Body Neutrality
In this day and age, a large emphasis is placed on our physical appearance. We experience this pressure as adults, but sometimes don’t realize to just what extent our children also feel it.
Unfortunately, our children likely feel the pressure to have a “perfect” body almost as much as we do. In fact, research has shown that children as young as three years old can experience negative body image. If not addressed early, this view likely worsens during the teenage years.
To help children develop a better relationship with their bodies, we can teach them to have a body-neutral mindset. Instead of valuing their bodies based on their outward appearance, they’ll learn to value it based on how it functions and the way it helps them perform certain activities.
Teaching Your Children About Body Neutrality
Body neutrality is the practice of viewing your body neutrally, rather than seeing it with a positive or negative perception. In doing so, the focus is shifted away from the body’s outward appearance and onto the way it functions.
In a child’s mind, an example of body positivity might be, “I love my arms even though they’re really small.” Conversely, an example of body negativity might be, “I hate my arms because they’re too little.”
However, if they had a body-neutral mindset, the thought might be something more along the lines of “I love my arms because they help me swing on the monkey bars.” This not only shifts the focus towards how the body functions but also helps the child develop an attitude of gratitude. Keep reading to find out how you can teach your children to develop such a mindset.
1. Repeat Body Neutral Affirmations With Them
Mindset holds a lot of power when it comes to body image. To help children develop a neutral mindset towards their physical appearance, develop a habit of repeating affirmations with them.
As your children turn into teenagers and develop new struggles, they probably won’t be so willing to repeat daily affirmations with their parents. Instead, try placing affirmation cards on their bathroom mirror or in their lunchbox as a reminder of how valuable their body is, and that there’s more to it than how it looks on the outside.
Use the affirmation cards below to help your kids develop a greater body-neutral mindset.
2. Compliment The Right Things
Phrases like “You look so pretty,” draw immediate attention to physical characteristics. Although these compliments feel natural, they can negatively shape both boys’ and girls’ views about body image. For example, when complimenting a girl on her looks, the boys who hear are unintentionally encouraged to also view the girl by her outward appearance. The same is true in a reverse situation when complimenting how a boy looks.
As a society, we’ve grown so accustomed to giving these types of compliments. In doing so, we unknowingly end up hurting our sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, and other children in our lives.
To help children learn to see themselves in a body-neutral way, practice complimenting them on things unrelated to physical appearance, and encourage them to do the same.
3. Use Worksheets To Help Them Practice
Setting aside a specific time to talk about bodies and how we view them can make a big impact on children. In doing so, they’ll learn that it’s okay to talk openly about their bodies, while also developing a greater trust in you. This trust is important to build so your children know they can come to you for help and advice when it comes to sensitive and important topics related to their bodies.
Use the body-neutral worksheets below to help guide your discussion when talking with children about their bodies. If your child experiences a lot of negativity already, this is a good exercise to help them combat those feelings.
4. Be Their Example
Though difficult — maybe the most important — children need examples in their lives of people who view their body based on the way it functions, rather than the way it looks. Our children look up to us in many ways. If they catch you saying hurtful things about your own physical appearance, they’ll quickly catch onto that mindset.
Developing a body-neutral mindset takes time and practice. In some ways, you may feel unqualified to teach your child about this if you struggle with it yourself. If this is the case, it’s the perfect time to begin shifting your own mindset. Making it a goal to develop a body-neutral mindset can be something you do with your child that helps you bond and practice compassion for yourselves and for others.