Whether you are a parent or not there is a pretty good chance you are around kids. Kids hear and see everything we do, even if we don’t think they are paying attention. It is so important to set a healthy example of what a good relationship with food and our bodies looks like for the kids around us.
Kids are exposed to a lot of messages around food and body starting from a really young age. Media, social media, school friends, teachers, family members, TV, radio, billboards, etc. are all shaping the way children think and feel about their own bodies as well as food. As parents or any adult around a child we have the opportunity to promote joy or create fear around food. Our job is to help children trust themselves with food and develop a healthy relationship with it.
The two most common issues I hear about when dealing with families and kids are 1) adults talking about their own bodies negatively in front of kids and 2) adults talking about foods as good or bad.
The language we use around food and bodies impacts kids greatly. It can be a hard shift getting away from diet culture and the “norm” of some language that is used, but with some time, patience and practice it is possible! Also, don’t forget to give yourself some grace as you work through this. As parents and adults we usually are doing the best that we know how. We have all been a product of diet culture unfortunately.
When we call foods bad or forbid kids from eating certain foods it creates a higher value around them and they will seek them out even more. Instead of telling kids “No, you’ve had enough.” Maybe try something like “How does your belly feel right now?” or “We will have more __________ again soon.” Letting kids know that this food will be offered again at some point soon will help them accept they aren’t having anymore right now. Calling foods bad, naughty or that we are cheating by having them can create guilt and shame as they grow and realize they really like the naughty foods. Instead of calling something a treat maybe try using the name of the food instead. For example, “we are going to go get ice cream!” instead of “we are going to go get a treat!”
Just like the way we talk about food effects our kids so does the way we talk about our own bodies and other people’s bodies. Saying things about how fat you are or how you hate your stomach can cause your child to believe these things about themselves even though you aren’t saying it to them. Here is an awesome short video by Dove that depicts this:
So what can we do!? Here are some things to avoid!
- Commenting on your own body in a negative way
- Commenting on your child’s body in a negative way…even if it is supposed to be a joke!
- Commenting on any body in a negative way
- Going on diets (if you do this please please please do not tell your child! Also note they will more than likely notice if you eat different foods than the family all the time or won’t go out to eat, and any other common dieting behaviors)
- Talking about foods as good or bad, or naughty, cheating, treat
- Counting calories or grams or anything in front of your child
- Obsessively using any tracking device
- Measuring or weighing foods in front of your child
If you have done some of these things previously don’t beat yourself up! There is still time to make some changes and create a healthy environment and relationship with food!
As always if you have any questions, comments, or would like assistance with all things nutrition you can contact me here!