We all know how much effort it takes to establish love towards your body as an adult, after so many years of non-acceptance and even hatred towards it. But this was a lesson for us – to learn from personal experience how it feels not to love yourself, and then to find out how to create this love.
And when we realize how important it is to love your body and we have finally learnt how to do it, naturally we need to pass on this lesson to the people younger than us, and it doesn’t matter whether we talk about our own children or someone else’s precious children who are somehow part of our lives. What matters is to be responsible adults who know the cost of not loving your own body, so that they would like to spare the younger ones from this hard lesson.
Actually, maybe the question “How to teach children to love their bodies” is not really correct. In reality, children are born with love towards their bodies and during the first few years of their life it’s easy to notice this.
But as they grow up, especially during the teenage years, this love seems to fade away and on its place comes non-acceptance of the body and even hatred towards it. So how could we help children keep the love towards their bodies and how could we teach children, who have already lost this love, to regain it?
The easiest way children could learn something is through our personal example. Even if we don’t talk on this topic with them, when they see that adults around them love their bodies as they are, take a good care of them, enjoy what they see in the mirror and wear beautiful clothes emphasizing the natural beauty of their bodies, then children understand that their bodies are something extremely valuable and really beautiful. However, if children see us standing in front of the mirror and critisizing ourselves that we have gained weight, that we look horrible, ugly, messy, that we have too many wrinkles or that we simply don’t like ourselves, then children develop the same attitude as well.
Give them the real reason
Often we tell children not to eat too many sweets or too much bread, not to stuff themselves with food, not to sit in front of the computer for so long, but to go out and do some sports instead… But do we let them know the reason why we require those things from them? Do we take the time to explain them that sweets are actually just a treat, which we only eat from times to times, because it tastes really good, but as a main meal we need to eat foods that are richer in nutrients, so that our body can be healthy and strong. Or we are just telling them instead: “Stop eating sweets!”, without thinking that after some time the child will have the opportunity to choose alone what they are going to eat and if we are not there to give them “orders” and if they don’t know the real reason why we want this from them, then they are going to stuff themselves with as many sweets and junk food as they can.
Do we explain to children that it is better to go out and have a run, then to play on the computer whole day, because this way their bodies grow stronger and their immune system becomes fitter, so that illnesses can’t get them easily? Children can adopt healthy habits for body care quite easily as long as they know the real meaning of things and as long as they see that we also obey those rules, otherwise it’s not going to work.
Attention to their beauty
Pay attention to the beautiful traits of the child still from early age. Don’t spare efforts to tell them how beautiful they are, what a wonderful hair they have and such angelic eyes. Dress them with beautiful clothes and teach them how to be groomed, so that they see their own beauty. And when the child enters the teenage years, no matter how hard it gets, just keep telling them all the nice traits you see in them every time you get the opportunity to.
Puberty is an extremely difficult period for children due to all those changes that happen in their bodies, not to mention all the acne, hairs, gaining weight and hormones connected to the specific gender functions that begin to develop. This is quite scary for many of them and very often they react to this process with non-acceptance of their bodies and even hatred towards them. That is why you should never dare to say to your child that they are fat, that they look horrible with this acne or any other negative comment towards their bodies. Even if his/her hair doesn’t seem nice or even if he/she wears something you don’t particularly find beautiful, don’t say it directly in a rude way. Of course, you shouldn’t be silent no matter what, but there is always a way to give genuine feedback in a gentle way. You can always say something like: “Your haircut is interesting, but you can fix it just a bit more. Do you want me to show you?” or “Those jeans fit you so well, your t-shirt is also nice, but maybe the other one would look a bit better?”. There is always a way to be honest, but at the same time spare the child’s feelings.
It’s not necessary for each of us to face the lesson of lacking love towards their own bodies. Since we have already learned it, it is definately worth it to make some effort and show our children how to treat themselves with love and care. This little seed – to perceive their body with love, will pay out over and over again in future!