Summer is here, and body-shaming memes are starting to go viral. It’s no surprise “summer bod vibes” are in full effect here in Boston. We live in a fit-centric city, where 90% of fashion trendsetters on the train are sporting their yoga pants. I’m guilty. I looked through my wardrobe recently, wondering when I last purchased a pair of jeans. This could be because I’m a part-time yoga instructor, and between sessions I try to focus on my personal practice. It’s kind of like of wearing a raincoat in case it rains — I wear yoga pants in case I do yoga.
My students often speak of what they want their ultimate beach bodies to look like, and I teach them to make choices that have long-term wellness effects that extend beyond summer 2018. The words “lifestyle modifications” make them cringe.
It’s difficult not to obsess over beauty standards when you are constantly reminded of them. And if we are so in tune with these standards and how they affect our views of our own bodies, it makes you wonder if our children notice.
My fellow classmates were my greatest influencers as a child. I picked up on colorful language that resulted in long afternoons spent in the principal’s office, but I also contributed, keeping the cycle going. This knowledge exchange caused our parents to work twice as hard. Our children spend 30-40 hours at school each week. Whether you are a working or stay-at-home mom, you know a lot can happen in that amount of time.
These seemingly harmless ways of information sharing have led to forms of unconscious bias, body shaming, and issues with self-esteem. It’s important to speak to our children about these views and how they affect our perceptions.
Here are three ways to protect your children from negative views of body image:
Be mindful of the way you speak about yourself and others. Children are not always able to discern the difference between a “joke” or whether you truly feel a certain way about your own personal body image. Show them you love and care for your body by encouraging healthy habits! Opt for self-care (even in the smallest forms). It starts with you!
Monitor entertainment sources
Encourage your child to see and appreciate the different forms of beauty that make us unique! Screen all entertainment sources. Look for movies, music, and books with positive messages. Ensure they have varied entertainment that includes body and cultural diversity.
Give them tools
We were all young once. Instead of telling children how to feel, give them the tools needed to make informed decisions. Talk to them about bullying and how it affects other people. Inspire them to love themselves and to honor different standards of beauty.
Tell your children they are beautiful. Give them examples. Help them to be proud of their individual features. Foster positive associations toward body image so that others, too, can recognize their beauty in a world that still has a ways to go in the realm of diverse representation!