What Impact Are You Having On Your Kids When It Comes To Body Image?
Being a parent is not an easy gig. There is no manual written specifically on our kids nor is there a crystal ball telling you that what we say or do will have a positive or negative effect on them. Like I said ….a hard gig!!
The question I often get asked as a personal trainer is - How do I tell my child that they need to move more and eat less? My answer to that is YOU SAY NOTHING! Our kids are so vulnerable while young and studies have shown that what we say to them at an early age may inadvertently reinforce negative stereotypes especially about weight. We want to help them form a positive picture of themselves not the opposite.
Whether we like it or not we are all role models for our kids. That includes the good with the bad. I believe that the way to help your kids make healthy choices is by leading the way. Not by obsessing and constantly making reference to food and exercise but more so with your choices. After all actions speak louder than words.
What do I mean by that?
1. Talk less and do more - You need to get out there and show your kids how to be active. Take them on a bike ride or a jog around the block. Make it fun and interactive along the way, engage with them. Even taking them to the park and let them run around. Kids love it when their parents are there with them. I was only laughing with a good friend of mine a couple of weeks ago when we were standing in what was clearly a dog park. All the owners were standing there talking while throwing a ball instead of perhaps walking laps so they could too get some incidental exercise in. Then I realised that we were standing there doing exactly the same. The only difference was that we ‘let our kids out for a run!’ instead. I say kill two birds with one stone….they play and you walk or run the oval.
2. Be careful what you say when you finish a workout - This one is an interesting one. Think about it for a second; you get home from a session with your Personal Trainer or a gym session and you make the comment of ‘Oh my, that was so hard. I am exhausted’. Or you get home from a long bike ride with your mates and you slump on the couch as you ‘need to rest because that was a tough ride’. What message is that sending to your kids? Why would they associate purposeful movement as being fun with actions and comments like that? Maybe we need to change the language we use to add a positive spin on it. “Oh my, that session was so hard but I loved it and I feel great. I am glad I did that.” Same, same but different….right?
3. Keep healthy food options in your pantry - I have said this a thousand times to client's who are on a weight-loss journey; get rid of temptation. Avoid the unhealthy snacks and replace with good ones. Better still get them involved in making a healthy snack. There are plenty of websites that have recipes for this stuff.
4. Wait for your child to bring it up - Let them come to you and when they do you can support them. Unfortunately we can’t dismiss them especially as they have brought it up. We do need to acknowledge it but be careful again of the language you use. “I love you just the way you are and your weight is not important; it is about how you feel. If you not feeling great then let’s make a plan together to change that. How does that sound?”
It is a tricky subject and there is no right or wrong way. Say something, and you risk a negative thought process. Say nothing, and you worry that it could lead to long term health issues. I am certainly no expert in this field, my only experience is as a mum of 2 boys (5 & 9 years) and a personal trainer who has worked with kids during a 22 year career. It is a journey that you and your kids are on together and you are usually the best judge when it comes to your kids. Let them guide you, at their pace, and you focus on what you can do which is making the home environment a healthier one. If you are really concerned then you should seek advice from a health professional who is an expert in this area.
Remember you are the best role model.
Happy parenting and enjoy the journey.
Written by Kirsty Robbie - Founder of StudioForty6 and CHEK exercise coach.