Last week, a friend of mine posted this on Facebook:
I: Mama, do I have a unibrow?
Me: uh, no not really. I don’t think so...
I: well, what is a unibrow then? I see some hairs.
Me: *describes more hair versus less hair and judgement call blah, blah not sure what to say
I: Mom, you know Frieda?
Me: Frieda? I don’t think I know a Frieda?
I: Mom! The famous painter!
Me: *lightbulb* aahhh, yes. Are you learning about her in school?
I: yeah. She’s beautiful...and her paintings are good too.
Me: so, is this why you asked about a unibrow the otherday?
I: yeah, I was hoping I was a little bit like her...
Love it. That kid is one of a kind.
This conversation SO perfectly highlights why I suggest parents #neverassume what kids mean when they make comments about their weight/body/beauty/food, etc. It's incredibly easy to project our beliefs, worries, fears, and anxieties onto our children (though my friend did a pretty great job, I'd say:)
So, how do we answer our kids when we're trying not to make assumptions?
WE ASK QUESTIONS.
Your kid says:
I'm so fat.
NO! You're not! You're perfect!
(because it's easy to project that fat is BAD!!!! without even realizing we're doing it. Not too many years ago, I did this myself...)
Why do you say that?
Or what does "fat' mean?
And Where do you think you learned that?
Your kid says:
I'm sooo tiny! (My eldest said this once, with a tone that indicated she thought it was a good, winning thing).
What do you mean by tiny?
Is that a good thing?
Why might that be?
What if you weren't tiny? What would that mean?
You can do the same for comments about healthy vs unhealthy food, height, curly hair, yellow teeth (we've had that convo many times!!), freckles, skin colour, unibrows, abilities/disabilities, and. and. and. The list is endless.
You may not always be able to have all the right answers but asking questions opens a conversation. You can figure out what they're absorbing, what's happening in their little brains, what associations they are making. It indicates that, rather than buying into cultural beliefs about health, weight, beauty, etc. you are curious and critical in your thinking. It encourages them to become more critical in their thinking. It opens up the door for conversation about diet culture, body diversity, inclusion, marketing and media literacy and gives you the opportunity to re-educate when they've absorbed misinformation.
I'll be talking about this and MORE in my podcast series on Intuitive Eating, Weight, & Body Image FOR KIDS! coming later this fall. Stay tuned.
Have a great weekend,
PS Struggling with your kid(s) when it comes to food, weight, and/or body image? Book a consult! We can sort through your concerns and make a plan to help you feel competent and empowered in parenting your children through these issues!