How To Help Your Kids Develop Body Positivity

By Cassidy Black

“Hey mom, I think I want to get my hair done like this.”

*Insert a picture of blonde hair with rainbow-colored streaks plastered throughout. *

Are you sure?”

*aggressive head-nod by me*

 Okay… I’ll make you an appointment.”

When I was an awkward, annoying pre-teen, I was constantly experimenting with finding my true self. The struggle with that was my idea of my ‘true self’ changed every day. One day I wanted to wear ripped jeans and band t-shirts just to turn around and want floral crowns and boho dresses the next day. It was a never-ending cycle of constant shopping trips and hairstyles. Did I mention the hair styles?

I don’t think there was a color of the rainbow that at least part of my hair wasn’t at some point. Actual rainbow strips (I’m talking ROY-G-BIV from my roots to the ends)? Yep. Pink highlights all over? You bet. The entire underneath dyed blue, resulting in stained skin that needed to be covered for a school picture? Oh, absolutely!

Looking back, now that I choose hair colors that are considered ‘plain,’ I try to figure out why I did all of that in the first place. I know I probably looked ridiculous and so damaged my hair, but I didn’t care one bit. Why? Because I was happy with the body I was in. As a pre-teen, now more than ever, there are constant struggles with acceptance among peers and with oneself. Somehow, I managed to like –no–LOVE myself despite this need for acceptance. Which is why I felt free to experiment with who I truly wanted to become, and not pay too much attention to what others thought of me.

Teaching and helping your children to maintain a positive body image is crucial to navigating life as a young teen and into adulthood. There are multiple ways you, as a parent, can assist your child in finding strong body positivity. Here’s some I’m borrowing from Working Mother.

Watch for Negative Body Image Signs

In a world where life is so fast paced and driven, it may be difficult at times to pick up on the subtle negative body image cues your children push out. In fact, they may not even notice they are doing this. These cues can be anywhere from a different change in diet, refusing to leave the house without any makeup on at all, and/or only wearing certain types of clothing. (Keep in mind there are many more cues your children can give you.)

These changes can be normal but watch for them to become obsessive and need-driven.

Talk!

If you notice these changes, bring them up – SUBTLY! Pre-teens spook easily (I know I did), so approach these conversations with ease and an open set of arms. By showing your kiddos now that you are willing to have an adult-like conversation about issues with them, they may feel more comfortable coming to you with issues like this down the road.

However, your child may not want to talk, and that is okay too! Just express to them that you will always have listening ears when they are ready.

Set a GOOD example

Sometimes, children begin to feel certain emotions and have thoughts based on the environment they are in. It will feel contradicting if you, as a parent, are never happy with the way your body looks (and outwardly express it) and then you go and tell your kiddos to love theirs.

Therefore, love yourself! Trust me, you need it. We all need some self-love. So, model that positive thinking. Reveal your self-praising habits for your kiddos. Let them see the self-love from one of the people they love so dearly. By doing this, you can start to foster positive thoughts in your children and yourself.

Limit Physical Praise

“Oh my gosh you look so cute!!… Don’t you look sharp today… That lipstick color is PERFECT on you!”

It’s force of habit to comment on physical appearances. It’s something we do as humans to make someone else feel good. However, this can have more negative impacts than you think. It can subconsciously train your children to seek out these compliments from anywhere (or anyone), leading to negative body image if they are not received. Don’t get me wrong, physical comments can be given, just don’t make them a habit. Remember, looks are only skin deep.

Instead, comment on their other features. Compliment your daughter on her intelligence – remember, beauty is brains. Tell your son you are proud of him for the way he treats others – kindness is key. Physical acceptance isn’t the only acceptance to seek. Teach your children to become good human beings – that is what truly matters.

Be Open to Changes

Your child may want to cut/dye their hair, change the way they dress, or ask you to help them lead a healthier lifestyle. Be open to these changes! Often times, these decisions are made because your child is striving for a better version of themselves. Accepting your child for who they are is the biggest display of love they can ever receive. And, who knows, these changes may be good for you as well!

Extra resources:

https://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/style/why-i-let-my-daughter-dye-her-hair-rainbow-colors/

https://www.workingmother.com/content/5-ways-help-kids-body-image-and-eating

COVID-19 and Schools: How to Help Your Kids Navigate the Year

By Cassidy Black

When schools abruptly closed in April 2020, and students got two extra months of summer, they never thought returning to school like normal wouldn’t be an option for this fall. Now that school has started this year for your children, let’s check in.

The CDC stressed opening schools quickly and safely this fall for students. However, schools were to make the best decision possible for their students and community when deciding the route for reopening. My sister’s school provided families with multiple different options: all in-person, all remote via the school, or all remote via an outside source. Regardless of your decision, we’d like to help your kids navigate this weird ‘new normal.’

Offer Reassurance and Help

Even if they don’t seem like it, your children actually listen to your advice. If they are stuck on a project and can’t think of ideas, help them! Throw out suggestions and ideas, and just maybe one will stick. Often I find myself texting my mom for ideas and suggestions for papers because I can’t think of anything. Also, keep tabs on their school district’s policies about COVID-19 and everyday maintenance. Sign up for district emails/newsletters, teacher policy updates, and more. The more you know to help your kids, the better.

Find the Good in Each Day

Celebrate little things! Every day after school, especially this year, your child is going to come home (or leave the computer screen) physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. I know I walk away from my computer screen drained every day. It is highly important to find the good in every day. Did your child pass their history test? Make their favorite dinner! Did they attend every online class on time today? Give your child a hug and tell them you are proud. Trust me when I say they need to hear it more than you think.

Talk About Mental Health

Self-care is always important, but even more so right now. Be open with your kids about mental health and how to approach these feelings. The best thing a parent can do when their child expresses feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, or anything else, is to love them and get help when necessary. Helping your children keep a steady sleep and eating schedule and getting regular exercise can help to boost mood as well. And have discussions with others about the signs you need to look for so you know when to get professional mental health help.

Remind Your Kids that Feelings are Valid

Emotions are running at high speed this year for everyone. Remind your children that their frustration over the absence of extracurricular activities is okay. It’s okay to be upset and frustrated that school dances aren’t happening. It’s understandable to be angry that you can’t go watch your friends play soccer or football. They are allowed to have feelings and express them to you. When the “storm” has passed, it will be okay to go back to regular activities. But meltdowns may happen. Just be there.

Keep Learning

Probably the best thing to do is just keep learning. Parenting is one of the world’s most difficult jobs. But as Dr. Lauber has always told us, it’s also the toughest job you’ll ever love. Check out our links below.

Extra resources:

https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/school-climate-safety-and-crisis/health-crisis-resources/helping-children-cope-with-changes-resulting-from-covid-19

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html

https://www.childandadolescent.org/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-high-school-students/