‘Body Image Survival Guide’ for kids

One of my favorite posts on my blog is called A Beautiful Conversation. It’s about a positive talk I had with my kids about our bodies. It was an amazing conversation and I had a lot of good feedback about it.
So today, I have my first guest writer on my blog. She is the inspiration behind A Beautiful Conversation. Marci Warhaft is the author of “The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents: Helping, Toddlers, Tween and Teens Thrive.” She is also a mother to two boys, eating disorder survivor, Huffington Post blogger and founder of the Fit vs Fiction Body Image school workshops. In this post, Marci shares some tips and games you can engage in with your kids to promote a positive body image:
Baby steps to healthy body image – Marci Warhaft
There’s a lot that we can do with our kids from a very young age to encourage the kind of self-esteem and healthy body image they deserve. The negative messages thrown at our kids from society and the media can be loud, which means that our healthy, positive messages as their parents need to be even LOUDER!
Here are just a few tips and games from my book to get you started:
1.) Image –Proof your home:
We’ve all heard of baby-proofing our homes. That’s when we take away any potential dangers that could be harmful to our kids. We do things like plug up electrical sockets and lock cupboard doors. Now we can IMAGE PROOF our homes too! It’s pretty simple. Just look around your home for magazines, posters and books that promote the unrealistic images of beauty that we’re surrounded by and get rid of them (or at least move them out of their view). Even kids who can’t read, can be influenced by the images they see and eventually, that can take a toll on their self-esteem. The idea isn’t to shield them from the outside world, but to prepare them for it. Replace these pictures with ones of friends and family. Instead of fashion or fitness magazines on the coffee table, have family photo albums. Kids LOVE looking at pictures and the more diversity there is in the pictures they see, the more they’ll come to understand that people really do come in ALL shapes and sizes. Today’s media can make us feel like we live in a one size fits all kind of world, so it’s important that our kids see that that just isn’t the case.
2.) The “I AM.” Alphabet Game:
This is a great game to play with even the littlest of little ones. The idea is to go through the alphabet, and come up with a positive character trait to correspond with each letter. The traits shouldn’t be about physical characteristics, but should focus more on character. For little kids, make it a song you sing to them and as they get older, have them join in.
It goes like this:
A)     I AM AMAZING!
B)     I AM BRAVE!
C)     I AM CLEVER or CUDDLY!
D)    I AM DARING or DETERMINED!
E)     I AM EXCEPTIONAL!
Say the words, Sing the words, put Actions to the words, and just make it FUN!
Repetition is key. The more they hear it, the faster they’ll believe it!
(The great thing about your child at this age is that you can never be too silly for them and you still have plenty of time before they find you completely embarrassing.
3.) Make a Sunshine List:
At the end of each day, ask your child to think of one thing they’re proud of. It can be absolutely anything from a drawing they made, a silly dance they made up, to helping you with a chore. Write these special things down on your Sunshine List and stick it up on your fridge. At the end of the week, read the list out loud (or have them read it themselves). By celebrating their positive actions with them, you remind your kids of how beautiful they are on the inside and encourage a sense of pride that will benefit them as they get older.
The first time a mom contacted me looking for advice for her FIVE year old child who didn’t want to go to leave the house because she thought her snowsuit made her look fat, I was shocked. Could kids that young really be struggling with their body image already? Sadly, the answer is yes. Over the last year, I have gotten many more calls from worried parents of kids who you’d think would be way too young to be concerned with how they look. I’m no longer shocked by these calls, but I am angry that somehow, one of the very first lessons our sons and daughters are learning is that being who they are, is just not good enough.
The hardest thing in the world for a parent is to see their child struggling and not know how to help them. It’s easy to feel powerless, but the good news is that we’re NOT powerless.
A few quick tips for moms and dads:
A)     Role modelling:
If we want our kids to grow up loving and appreciating themselves, we need to show them how it’s done. Instead of criticizing our bodies for what they’re not, we need to start celebrating them for everything that they are.
B)     Make your home Fat-Talk free:
Now that we’ve stopped putting ourselves down in front of our kids, we need to make sure our guests follow our lead. Let your friends and family know that they need to keep negative body image chatter at the door. While Aunt Jenny might want to share every detail of her latest diet with you, it’s OK to let her know that it’s not something you’re comfortable talking about in front of your kids.
C)     Get Active-TOGETHER!
You don’t have to be a world class athlete to teach your kids the benefit of an active lifestyle. Being active should be FUN and something that you do together, as a family. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Set up an obstacle course at the park using the swings, slides and benches for inspiration, throw around a tennis ball or get creative and make up your own silly game! The more we can focus on what our bodies can DO, the less our kids will focus on how they LOOK.
We can’t control all of the messages that will be thrown at our kids as they grow up, but with the right encouragement we can empower them with the tools and confidence they need to tune those messages out and THRIVE!
“Self-worth shouldn’t be measured in pounds”
Marci is also being very generous and giving away a signed copy of her book: “The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents,” to one lucky person!
For your chance to win this book, make a comment at the bottom of this post and sign up to follow my
blog by email. I will draw the winner on Sunday July 21, 2013.
To contact and find our more about Marci Warhaft and her book, her website is  http://www.fitvsfiction.com/. You can also follow her on twitter @Fit_vs_Fiction and like her on facebook at facebook.com/visitfitvsfiction.
What do you do to instill positivity in your children?

20 thoughts on “‘Body Image Survival Guide’ for kids

  1. Hey Marci and Salma!
    What a great post! I am incredibly passionate about healthy body image for my two girls! Thank you SO much for the fantastic tips we are chatting about them right now and how to incorporate them. What a concept to image-proof your home, we take so much care in our kids safety and our kids self esteem deserves just as much attention! I love the no fat talk rule – my husband and I already make a rule but you’ve given me the confidence to ask others to do the same.
    A couple of things we did/do are:
    Removed the scale from the bathroom and placed out of sight. I don’t want my girls seeing us pay attention to that number. I feel like if they think the number on the scale is important to me they will infer it should be important to them. Or worse, that their number on the scale is important to me!
    The second, and you talked about this Marci, is to model a healthy lifestyle and healthy relationship with food. In our house we eat real, whole food and exercise to stay healthy. We believe it has to start with us, they will learn what we do and model our example. I want to emphasize to them that we eat well and are active as a family to keep our bodies working and not to be skinny.
    Great message Marci! I hope I win your book! Thank you both!

    1. That’s AWESOME Candace!
      I’m so glad my article and tips from my book have inspired you and your family and I LOVE what you’re doing already! Your kids are very lucky!
      It’s never too young to make sure our kids are getting the healthiest messages possible, which is why I created my “Fit vs Fiction” workshops that I bring to schools (Grades 3 through high school) Self-Worth isn’t measured in pounds.
      :o)
      http://www.fitvsfiction.com

    2. What you’re already doing for your girls is amazing Candace! The scale thing is a good pointer. I did that recently too as I noticed my kids would step on it when they came in our bathroom. Thanks for your comments!

  2. Great read and loved the easy tips! I have been teaching Kindergarten for over 5 years now and I really see the “body image” issue coming up more and more and it’s really heart breaking! I will definitely be using your tips in the classroom and also at home with my own son. He’s almost 2 and a bit young for a conversation 😉 but promoting a healthy lifestyle in our home will be encouraging for him in the future. Thanks ladies.

    1. That’s great Sopia! It’s definitely scary that body image issue’s are starting so young but hopefully we can all be more proactive is promoting positivity.

  3. Great pointers and love the games – will definitely try them with my kids and turn in to an art project for their rooms for a daily reminder!

    1. An art project is a GREAT idea!

      The point is to make these activities so much fun, your kids won’t even realize their self-esteem is getting a boost while they play!

      I’m thrilled to have been able to share some of my tips with you, there are lots more in my book! :o)

  4. Love it! This is exactly the sort of reminder I need now to help both my children grow up thinking about their health instead of body image. Definitely some ideas that I want to incorporate right away! Thanks ladies 🙂

    1. Actually, research shows that both girls AND boys can be affected by the toys they play with. There are way too many dolls on the market now that are way too grown up and mature looking for little girls. The problem is that some girls end up wanting to emulate what they see and kids are only kids for so long, we have to encourage them to appreciate where they are instead of wanting to speed ahead and grow up too fast. In my book I answer a question from a parent about what to do when your daughter wants to play with a doll her friend has but you don’t approve of and I think the best thing to do is to explain that while it’s fine for her to play with this doll at her friend’s house, it’s not something your comfortable with at your home (You don’t want to be too restrictive)then go with her to the toy store and look for other dolls that the two of you both think would be fun to play with! Feel free to explain that the best part about being a kid is getting to run around, play and get messy and some of the dolls these days aren’t really dressed to play, so they’re not really much fun. Boys need to learn that although most action figures are built with mega-sized muscles, REAL heroes don’t need big muscles, just huge hearts! (I share some tips in my book about this as well) :o)

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