At what age does a mother have the conversation with her child about loving her body? When should you have to dispel myths that being planted in an impressionable mind? I say, as soon as your child is conscience of her body.
I know what you are probably thinking. Drawing attention to your child’s body in this way may have the adverse effect of emphasizing the body in your child’s mind which is exactly what you don’t want to do. Saying to your baby ” love your curves” may start to have them objectify their own bodies before they begin to develop.
Nonetheless, a conversation needs to be had. The maturity of your child will play a factor in how you approach them but something needs to be said. I was about 12 or 13 when I remember starting to be conscience of my body and how other people viewed it. I was raised to believe that having big legs and a little meat on your bones was a good thing, after all my mommy was curvy herself. To me, she was the most beautiful woman in the world.
Going to church was big at my house. We would lay out our clothes the night before and get anxious about wearing a new dress or accessory. I would go to church and my moms friends would say ” You could be a model, you have the body for it!” or “You are just as tall and thin as those models on TV”. I would leave church feeling like a super model in my Sunday’s best! I began to read my sisters magazines and look for models that looked like me. I really couldn’t find anyone who looked like me but I knew they were out there somewhere, right? I just don’t have access to the right magazine yet.
At the time there was a designer that would come back to our hometown and visit church from time to time. I was kind of in awe of him, of course he could recognize if I was model material or not. One particular Sunday I felt really pretty in my favorite white dress with black polka dots. I was so excited to see the designer at church that morning. When he saw me he said,” You know, you could model if you lost a little more weight”. I went home, got undressed and looked at myself through different eyes for the first time. From my mothers friends, I received confirmation that day my body was perfect for modeling, now I was being told that I wasn’t good enough to be a model. I mean he was right after all, I hadn’t seen a model that looked like me in the magazines I read or on TV.
It wasn’t the influences at home, it was outside influences that began to shape my own body image.
My oldest niece was about 6 years old when I began to have a conversation about how she viewed her body. I was doing her hair while watching cartoons. All of a sudden she hops up and says, “Auntie Faye, do you think I have to lose weight?” I was floored. “NO!! of course not my love, you are just fine, why do you ask?”. She turns to me and says ” Come on Auntie Faye, look at me!” She laughed as she grabbed her little stomach and started to do a silly dance. I smiled with her then grabbed her and hugged her saying ” Your body is just fine the way it is, don’t you dare worry about that”. I know my niece wasn’t raised to feel self conscience, it had to have been outside influences that shaped her way of thinking.
When I started producing The International Fuller Woman Expo, I brought in teen plus designers and had my niece model in the show. I knew how the runway made you feel and I wanted her to experience the confidence of the models who were in the show and feel the cheers of the crowd.
She is taller and slim now, no longer a chubby little girl. She blogs and has agreed to blog for one of my websites about body image and curvy fashion. I am so proud of her as a chubby little girl and as her slender self.
So how early should you talk to your child?
A mother in Australia found a Diet list in her daughters room at age 7. Despite her positive influences, she had to have the talk with her daughter to combat messages from her friends at school who was following a similar diet and gave her the blueprint. Read her story here.
We know that we are heavily influenced by our peers and pop idols when growing up. There is an unhealthy proliferation of messages given to children about their teen idols weight gain or loss. Teens look to other teens for support. This is evident in recent forum posts from fans on teen idol Taylor Swift’s website. There they talk about how scared they are about being fat and seek advice from girls that may feel the same way.
We can’t take for granted that our children feel the same way we do about body image. Having honest, open conversations about how they view themselves can positively impact them during critical stages of development.