Ok so admittedly, what I am about to talk about is a mish mash of ramblings that have been like a tennis match going on in my mind since my almost 10 year old made some statements that floored me.
“I am going to ask Santy for a fitbit!” Cadhla-Rose announced as I was cooking spaghetti for our dinner. I think I probably paused for longer then I should have before I answered her with a loud and concerned “WHY?”
With that statement she certainly stopped me in my tracks.
Almost Ten! Almost… Why in the world did she want to know how many steps she was walking or running in the day?
It brought me back to being about 13, when I used to stand in front of my mirrored wardrobe, crying because I thought I was fat. I wasn’t. I was a normal, healthy child. I just wasn’t one of the skinny ones. Spice Girls had just hit the charts and I idolised them. Five members of the best girl gang ever, all individual and beautiful in their own right and even though it should have made me realise that you can be different to be beautiful – All I could see was that they were all skinny and gorgeous.
Cadhla-Rose has always loved fashion and she does have a pretty good sense of style. However, at age 3, if she didn’t like what I dressed her in, she would strip off and appear at the front door in her own outfit which for the most part did not fit the days weather forecast… Always trying to brighten up the day with colours even on the days she probably needed thermals. Then trying to explain to her preschool teachers, who would glare disapprovingly when we arrived late at school as a result of negotiating what she wanted to wear.
Why did I think those days were tough? I would take the crazy outfit choices over the body image worries with open arms.
So what is it all about? We’re all sold an image by the media, and young women and children are taken in by this and want to conform – we’ve all done it, so why are our children any different? I think most of us do care quite a lot about how we look. Our weight, the clothes we wear, the condition of our skin and hair… Our children model themselves on us, more than we could ever imagine or more than they’ll ever admit.
It is so difficult to break the cycle. I like to encourage my daughters to be individual, to be original and to just be themselves! We have always told them they are gorgeous because (well they are) and also, if you’re going to have a self-fulfilling prophecy, we might as well make it an over the top positive one.
Trying to push now more then ever details about body positivity so I have listed a few things I will be doing below…
- Listening – When a child comes to me, I listen, no matter how silly or small the problem is I give them time. Obviously there are times where you have ask them to wait till you are free, but they do get my ear eventually and I do listen. When I am faced with problems about the body, or things that have been said about their image at school I sympathise, it doesn’t matter if what has been said is ridiculous, if it has hurt your child then it is serious to them and to you. I let my girls know about situations in my life where I have faced similar scenarios as by letting them into my life I feel they let me into theirs a little bit more.
- Technology – This is THE BIG ONE. The world has changed and nearly all kids have free use of the internet. Thankfully Cadhla-Rose only seems to use her iPod for music and Netflix but I know the time will come when she asks for certain accounts – What ever they maybe at that time. I read a horrendous statistic in an article that young girls who use social media are bombarded by up to 5000 digitally enhanced images every week. I don’t believe that we can stop this, yet we can educate our children to perhaps follow appropriate people. People who promote kindness!
- Self affirmations – About a year ago, one of my best friend’s said to me that we must believe in ourselves and love ourselves first. Stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself daily something incredible. I thought it sounded crazy, but it was so spot on. I recently bought Daily affirmation cards for the girls from Monkinya and the girls also write out something special about themselves each day. When we have a down day we can get them out and read them.
- Skills, talents and achievements – As we know there is so much more to us in this life than just how we look, but as a child/ teenager there will be stages where it doesn’t feel like that. As well a listening we need to make sure that our children know that their achievements are acknowledged. Many of these skills will stay with them forever, where as the way we look will change drastically. We are all special and unique, we are all good at things and we should all be proud of ourselves, this doesn’t come naturally and we must help our children realise their potential. So pay your children compliments, about the way they look and what they are good at.
- Food – An essential part of life is eating. The way I see it is that you should show your children how to be healthy by making healthy food choices and cooking homemade food and also by having some treats. Let them see you ‘treat yo self’ to a big burger and fries. Food is great, and is a social enjoyable thing, family meals are so important too, sitting toegther and enjoying food will give your children a healthy relationship with it.
- Self Love – I cant preach that I am remotely good at this one. I do know that it is super important. We must try and show that we are brave, confident and happy in our skin, easier said than done, I know. While researching for this and contemplating writing this bit of advice (Helly the hypocrit) it got me thinking that we should try to be more confident for the sake of our children. I think the more we do it, the more we will believe it. Remembering that our children think we are the most beautiful women in the world, lets not burst their bubble!
I hate to imagine my three girls being unhappy with their perfect little bodies but I think we have to accept at times that this will be the case. It is about us dealing with their questions straight away, reassuring them, boosting their confidence and making sure they know they can come to us with any concerns they have no matter how silly they may think the problem is.
If they could only go through life feeling as beautiful as how we see them…
Love, Helly x