The other day, my sweet bonus daughter repeated something that she certainly heard from someone else (apparently “everyone” says it’s true-moms you know how that goes), this was not a thought she had on her own. We know that kids are little sponges and they take in everything from everywhere around them. When they are really young, it's usually that one time you utter a four-letter word that they cling to and you spend the next few weeks praying they don’t repeat it in public. The thing is, that doesn’t end, they continue to latch onto and repeat everything they hear. We are all so influenced by the people around us and the conversations we are surrounded by, no matter your age, but sometimes it hits a little closer to home than others.
In this particular instance, this 8-year-old child told me she was chubby and fat because she couldn’t see her toes when she looked down. Thankfully, she didn’t seem upset about it, just simply stated it as a fact of life. It still took my breath away. Why is that a topic of conversation for an 8-year-old child? Why is that the thought that resonates with her?
Simply because it is what she is exposed to. Maybe it is “everyone” at school saying this. Maybe it was a statement on a TV show. Maybe it was something she heard one adult utter to another when they thought no one was listening. I will never really know. What I do know is that the example we set for our children starts when they are itty bitty.
Do your children see and hear you commending your body for all the good it does? Do they see and hear you working to be healthy? Not “skinny,” not working to get to a particular number on the scale, but healthy. Do they see and hear you working on your mindset and emotional intelligence? Do they see and hear you admitting your mistakes, saying your sorry, and holding your own boundaries?
We are all constantly growing and evolving, but so are our children. We are so good at monitoring their exposure to explicit content, discussing consent, drugs, alcohol, etc… but it’s time we start setting a higher bar for ourselves too. If I’m insecure in my body, the way I react to that will be the way my kids do too. If I refuse to grow through an old hurt or trauma, my kids will not know how to use those hardships to create better versions of themselves. If I manage my hard days with alcohol or other substances, that will be how they learn to manage theirs too.
I know it's hard. I know it is hard to become a better version of yourself. I know it is easier to keep doing what you’ve always done. I know it is hard to explain your desire to grow and evolve to those who might not understand it. But I promise you, it is harder to know that because you didn’t, your child is now struggling with the same battles.
I am so grateful that I worked through my body image insecurities years ago on my healing journey. It allowed me to teach her some important lessons during that conversation. Am I perfect? No. Is there a perfect way to handle this? No. But I know it would have been a whole different conversation for us had I not done the hard work to be better. I know that I practice what I preach about body image in our household. I know that I don’t speak like that; not just when she is around, but ever. I know that we don’t have conversations about calories but instead about fueling our bodies. I know we don’t talk about weight gain or weight loss, but strength, flexibility, endurance, and moving our bodies in a way that feels good. I know that we celebrate all the amazing things the human body does every day and how our differences keep the world from being boring.
Mama, I encourage you to begin to do the same. For yourself, for your kiddos, for your grandkids. Do the work now so your kids don’t have to do it later. Set an example for the future generations that is one you’re proud of. Allow yourself to heal. Allow yourself to make shifts in your mindset. Allow yourself to change the conversation.
If you’re struggling with the challenges of healing, let's work together. A little extra guidance goes a long way and it is so worth it if it prevents your little one from ever uttering heartbreaking words like these. Hop on my calendar and let’s chat!