Let me start by saying I love my small group!
We are walking through Parenting Through the Phases, and it’s creating some interesting and in-depth discussions. This past week we had one of those where everyone was engaged and talking. We looked up, and it was getting late. We never made it to the end of our discussion questions.
One of the main topics of discussion was on our children and health. We did talk about eating and being healthy, but the talk soon went to body issues and boundaries. The conversation got the wheels turning about how we help our children and students have a healthy body image and how to create boundaries. This week I’d like to focus on body image.
An Unhealthy View
In our small group, they reported that in one study, 38% of middle school boys said they had used protein supplements. In another study (http://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/) It showed that kids are aware of what dieting is by the age of 6. Some have even tried it by then. Even more shocking is the fact that 40-60% of elementary school girls are concerned about weight and becoming too fat!
By the time kids hit middle school, they have a firmly entrenched view of how their bodies “should” look. And for most, that view is a skewed one.
Many factors play into this. Mental health, family makeup, peer pressure, and even race plays into it. For example, white middle-class girls are far more likely to have eating disorders. The Barbie doll image of thin doesn’t have the same impact on African-American teens as it does for others. And Asian-American teens have higher rates of body dissatisfaction (How to Cultivate Positive Teen Body Image).
Don’t forget social media. With the rise of apps like Instagram, Snap Chat, and Tik Tok, our kids and students can get instant feedback on their clothes, cars, videos, looks, etc. The more likes they get, the more love they feel and vice versa. Roll all of this up, and it’s no wonder our kids and teens are dealing with an unhealthy view of their bodies.
As parents, we are a lifetime influencer for our children. We will always have a voice in their life. But looking at all this, it feels like our voice is so small. So how do we push back? How do we help our kids and teens have a healthy view of their bodies?
It Starts with Us
These same studies showed that kids whose parents had a negative view of their bodies and health had the same issues at a much higher percentage than those whose parents didn’t. So be careful what you say around your kids and teens.
Your words and actions have lifelong implications for your kids. Saying things like “I’m so stupid,” “I’m just ugly,” or any number of put-downs will become the record that plays in your children’s head as well.
If this is you, let me throw some love your way. You are none of the lies the enemy tells you. Jesus calls our spiritual enemy the “father of all lies” (John 8). He will fill your mind with these lies for as long as we allow it. And any time we mess up or trip or stumble, he is right there trying to remind you who he thinks you are. The truth is that you are none of those things.
Listen to what Ephesians 2:10 says about you: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” You ever met an artist that created a masterpiece overnight? Me neither. You may not be where you want to be, but that doesn’t mean that God is done with you, which means that your identity rests, not in how you look or what you do, but in Him! He created you to do good things! You. Are. Good.
Live that out. Speak that truth over your life, your home, your job, your family, your kids. Don’t let the enemy steal the joy God has planned for your life. You are more than what culture deems essential. You are a child of the Most High King! The truth is you are royalty.
Even if you struggle with body image, you can still live this out in your life. Surround yourself with a community that will speak this truth to you when you can’t. Let your kids (age appropriately) in on your struggle. Walk with them through life-giving scripture (like this passage) and let them see how God heals.
If you need professional help, then get it! That’s part of God’s healing too. Don’t suffer alone.
Start early. If you can’t, then start now.
I’ve always heard, “The best time to start doing something was when they were born. The second best time is now.” The point is, it’s never too late. It’s never too late to start something healthy.
One of the couples in our small group is doing a great job of this with their little ones. They have the cutest little kids, but they have started reeling back the physical complements and started complementing their behaviors and accomplishments. They will single out acts of kindness. Or focus on their smarts when they learn something new. This way, their children start to learn that while they are cute (and they are), it’s not the most crucial aspect of who they are. They are smart, and they are kind. They are God’s children.
And while that may not shield them from all body issues, it will give them a strong foundation on which they can build.
If your kids are older, it can be more difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it! Have an awkward conversation. Write Ephesians 2:10 on their bathroom mirror. Tell them you’re proud of what they’re doing. Give them chores. Have them join a club or team. Encourage them to serve at church (if you’re in a church that doesn’t see and value them as part of the church-run, don’t walk, run to a church that does). Help them get an after school job. All of these things are confidence boosters that have nothing to do with how a person looks.
Even failing in these can help promote a healthy self-image. Learning that failure is an opportunity to learn, that it’s just an event and that they can fail forward is such an important lesson for them to learn at home. Better they fail now, under your care, than out in the world, where no one will care.
Point them again and again and again to where their identity rest. Jesus. How they look, or a number on a scale isn’t who they are. Their identity is in what Jesus did on the cross, and the resurrection defines them. He lived, died, and lived again for you, our kids and me.
Just Do It
Play with your kids. Play basketball, baseball, football, soccer, swimming, walking, running, whatever. My son LOVES to wrestle, WWE style, on our trampoline. Let me tell you about the exercise! Holy cow, that boy wears me out. Not only are you getting active, not only are you showing your kids a healthy lifestyle, you are making memories they will have forever!
Throwing the ball back and forth with my dad is something I’ll never forget. Him teaching me how to shoot a hook shot and how to defend (you pinch the person you’re guarding side…refs can’t see it…you do what you have to when you’re not 6’3) it.
Outside playing whatever with my parents and I still remember how much fun it was. So get up and start playing, walking, running, whatever. Just do it together.
There are lots of things that we can do to help promote a healthy body image in our kids, and these are just a few. I would love to hear what you’re doing at home. We’re all in the same boat trying to be the best parents we can. Let’s start working together, cheering for each other! Leave a comment and tell us what’s working in your home!