More than a decade ago, I started out on my mothering journey with a simple premise: I was going to love the little baby growing inside of me like no one else could.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Instilling a Healthy Self-Image

Welcome to the October 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Instilling a Healthy Self-Image
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared confessions, wisdom, and goals for helping children love who they are. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
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Self-Image...  It's a concept that I skittish try to avoid looking square in the face.  I will confess, here and now: I am not a good role model.  I struggle with my body.  I try to love it for what it is, for how it is, but it is SO hard for me.

In some ways, I know, without a doubt, that my body is rocking awesome.  I have grown and birthed FIVE small people!  Then I carried them around, held them and wore them, and nourished them at my breasts them for another 18 months+ each!  How cool is that?!  I love that my body has been so capable of mothering.

At the same time, I feel unhappy with my body.  I am overweight, obese even.  That alone doesn't bother me so much as the fact that I don't feel *healthy.*  Celiac disease, a thyroid disorder, and five pregnancies, coupled with being overweight has taken its toll on my body, resulting in a diagnosis of "Fibromyalgia Syndrome."  I have to say, chronic body pain makes it hard to keep a positive attitude, and rips into positive self-image.  So how DO I instill a healthy self-image in my children? What do they learn from the way I treat and talk about my own body (and others' bodies)?

Hm.  Well, first off, I am honest.  I tell them, I want to be healthy- for me, it is not about body shape.  And it really isn't.  I want to feel well: I want to enjoy good food, move my body, and live life to the fullest.  Focusing on the positive and proactive feels good, and promotes a more balanced life.  Those are things we value in our home.

Secondly, I focus on moderation and grace.  When I am jonesing for a cupcake or some ice cream, I go ahead and have some.  I don't trash talk myself or the food we eat, even if it isn't the greatest. I try very hard to stick with a "No Name Calling" rule.  My children deserve to be treated with respect, and I deserve no less.  Sometimes I will differentiate between foods that are safe versus healthy.  "Yes, Skittles are safe for you, but they are not very healthy.  You can have a serving sometimes, but not ALL the time."  I try not to impose judgement, but instead do my best to provide a healthy environment for our family.

Finally, I talk to them.  We talk about society and culture.  We talk about the media, double standards, and values.  We talk about diversity.  We talk about all the ways they are awesome, regardless of what others may think or say about them.  Sometimes we discuss the awesomeness of the people we love.  Would we love our grandparents, aunts, or uncles more if they were shaped like models on the covers of a magazine?  Of course not!  Body shape doesn't define self worth.

I think there is a lot to be said about being real with your kids.  I try to own my feelings, insecurities and all.  And when my feelings are too big (or in some cases, age-inappropriate), I work them out with another adult (my mom, husband, friends, or therapist) so that I can be there to support them with THEIR big feelings.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon October 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • Why I Walk Around Naked — Meegs at A New Day talks about how she embraces her own body so that her daughter might embrace hers.
  • What I Am Is Not Who I Am — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses her views on the importance of modeling WHO she is for her daughter and not WHAT she sees in the mirror.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Verbs vs. Adjectives — Alisha at Cinnamon & Sassafras tries hard to compliment what her son does, not who he is.
  • The Naked Family — Sam at Love Parenting talks about how nudity and bodily functions are approached in her home.
  • How She'll See Herself — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis discusses some of the challenges of raising a daughter in our culture and how she's hoping to overcome them.
  • Self Esteem and all it's pretty analogies — Musings from Laura at Pug in the Kitchen on what she learned about self-esteem in her own life and how it applies to her parenting.
  • Beautiful — Tree at Mom Grooves writes about giving her daughter the wisdom to appreciate her body and how trying to be a role model taught Tree how to appreciate her own.
  • Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Nurturing A Healthy Body Image — Christy at Eco Journey in the Burbs is changing perceptions about her body so that she may model living life with a positive, healthy body image for her three young daughters.
  • Some{BODY} to LoveKate Wicker has faced her own inner demons when it comes to a poor body image and even a clinical eating disorder, and now she wants to help her daughters to be strong in a world that constantly puts girls at risk for losing their true selves. This is Kate's love letter to her daughters reminding them to not only accept their bodies but to accept themselves as well in every changing season of life.
  • They Make Creams For That, You Know — Destany at They Are All of Me writes about celebrating her natural beauty traits, especially the ones she passed onto her children.
  • New Shoes for Mama — Kellie of Our Mindful Life, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is getting some new shoes, even though she is all grown up…
  • Raising boys with bodily integrity — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants her boys to understand their own bodily autonomy — so they'll respect their own and others'.
  • Sowing seeds of self-love in our children — After struggling to love herself despite growing up in a loving family, Shonnie at Heart-Led Parenting has suggestions for parents who truly want to nurture their children's self-esteem.
  • Subtle Ways to Build a Healthy Self-Image — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM discusses the little things she and her husband do every day to help their daughter cultivate a healthy self-image.
  • On Barbie and Baby Bikinis: The Sexualization of Young Girls — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger finds it difficult to keep out the influx of messages aimed at her young daughters that being sexy is important.
  • Undistorted — Focusing on the beauty and goodness that her children hold, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children watches them grow, loved and undistorted.
  • Off The Hook — Arpita at Up, Down and Natural sheds light on the journey of infertility, and how the inability to get pregnant and stay pregnant takes a toll on self image…only if you let it. And that sometimes, it feels fantastic to just let yourself off the hook.
  • Going Beyond Being An Example — Becky at Old New Legacy discusses three suggestions on instilling healthy body image: positivity, family dinners, and productivity.
  • Raising a Confident Kid — aNonymous at Radical Ramblings describes the ways she's trying to raise a confident daughter and to instil a healthy attitude to appearance and self-image.
  • Instilling a Healthy Self Image — Laura at This Mama's Madness hopes to promote a healthy self-image in her kids by treating herself and others with respect, honesty, and grace.
  • Stories of our Uniqueness — Casey at Sesame Seed Designs looks for a connection to the past and celebrates the stories our bodies can tell about the present.
  • Helping My Boy Build a Healthy Body Image — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers readers a collection of tips and activities that she uses in her journey to helping her 3-year-old son shape a healthy body image.
  • Eat with Joy and Thankfulness: A Letter to my Daughters about Food — Megan at The Boho Mama writes a letter to her daughters about body image and healthy attitudes towards food.
  • Helping Our Children Have Healthy Body Images — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares information about body image, and her now-adult daughter tells how she kept a healthy body image through years of ballet and competitive figure skating.
  • Namaste — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares how at barely 6 years old, her daughter has begun to say, "I'm not beautiful." And while it's hard to listen to, she also sees it as a sign her daughter is building her self-image in a grassroots kind of way.
  • 3 Activities to Help Instill a Healthy Self-Image in Your Child — Explore the changing ideals of beauty, create positive affirmations, and design a self-image awareness collage. Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares these 3 ideas + a pretty affirmation graphic you can print and slip in your child's lunchbox.
  • Beautiful, Inside and Out — It took a case of adult-onset acne for Kat of MomeeeZen to find out her parenting efforts have resulted in a daughter that is truly beautiful, inside and out.
  • Mirroring Positive Self Image for Toddlers — Shannon at GrowingSlower reflects on encouraging positive self image in even the youngest members of the family.
  • How I hope to instill a healthy body image in my two girls — Raising daughters with healthy body image in today's society is no small task, but Xela at The Happy Hippie Homemaker shares how choosing our words carefully and being an example can help our children learn to love their bodies.
  • Self Image has to Come from WithinMomma Jorje shares all of the little things she does to encourage healthy attitudes in her children, but realizes she can't give them their self images.
  • Protecting the Gift — JW from True Confessions of a Real Mommy wants you to stop thinking you need to boost your child up: they think they are wonderful all on their own.
  • Learning to Love Myself, for my Daughter — Michelle at Ramblings of Mitzy addresses her own poor self-image.
  • Nurturing An Innate Sense of Self — Marisa at Deliberate Parenting shares her efforts to preserve the confidence and healthy sense of self they were born with.
  • Don't You Love Me, Mommy?: Instilling Self-Esteem in Young Children After New Siblings Arrive — Jade at Seeing Through Jade Glass But Dimly hopes that her daughter will learn to value herself as an individual rather than just Momma's baby
  • Exercising is FUN — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work talks about modeling for her children that exercising is FUN and good for body and soul.
  • Poor Little Chicken — Kenna at A Million Tiny Things gets her feathers ruffled over her daughter's clothing anxiety.
  • Loving the skin she's in — Mama Pie at Downside Up and Outside In struggles with her little berry's choice not to celebrate herself and her heritage.
  • Perfect the Way I Am — Erika at Cinco de Mommy struggles — along with her seven-year-old daughter — at telling herself she's perfect just the way she is.

10 comments:

  1. You have such a great attitude. I especially love your point about loving our relatives even though they don't look like supermodels — what a great thing to discuss with our kids!

    I like your division of safe vs. healthy foods, too. That sounds useful for encouraging moderation.

    Thanks for joining us this month!

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    1. Thanks Lauren! We instituted the safe vs healthy because of food allergens, but it's been a really great tool for discussion about what healthy eating is, and how it looks different for different people.

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  2. How we talk about food is a biggie. I just had a discussion with my husband about not using food to reward our daughter (so she doesn't associate a job well done with dessert, etc) and he said that he had never thought about that before (which is funny because whenever he's upset, he's heading for the pantry/fridge.) Thanks for sharing your experience!

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    1. I do that too! I want to treat myself whenever I feel bad, or have done something awesome, sometimes, too.

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  3. Such a good idea to talk about the fact that we would love friends/family just the same, no matter what they looked like. I will make sure to work that in our conversations soon!

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  4. First of all, YOU are a Goddess.
    5 children is miraculous. I'm one of 6 and I know that it's a gift beyond measure to your children already. You gave of your body and your body is incredible.
    I love that you work it out with them and talk to them (also that you talk to others when it's not age appropriate).
    You are teaching them the only thing that matters... how to work through things. You're teaching them that the only thing good enough is to be happy with yourself and to treat yourself with love and kindness.
    I know a little bit about fibromyalgia and chronic pain from dear friends who suffer and to have these other things on top of everything else makes you downright heroic in my book.
    much love to you...
    thank you for sharing this.

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    1. Aw, you are so sweet! I sure hope my kids appreciate having siblings when they are adults. Some nights I have to pry them apart. And not for any good reasons. :P

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  5. "Well, first off, I am honest. I tell them, I want to be healthy- for me, it is not about body shape." I really love this! This is a point that I constantly making to people. I am actually quite thin, but am no where near as healthy as I need to be. Whenever I work out or excercise I'm criticized for not liking my body shape - which is not the case. Similarly I have and do put people in their place when linking "fat" to "unhealthy" as the two are not at all linked... Good for you for standing up for this difference!

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  6. I love how you touch on the part about being "real" with your children. Being real shows respect and lets them know they aren't second class citizens. Absolutely love it. Definitely going to take that with me.

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