As a mom there’s so many things I want to teach my daughter as she grows up. In the early years it would be how to make her bed, how to pee on her own, how to dress and feed herself along with having decent manners. As she grows into her teen years it would be how to apply makeup, blow out her hair, study well and be a good friend. When she’s all grown I would hope she would still come to me for advice and invite me to share in her life’s accomplishments big and small.
Now settling into momhood for the past few years I have come to hold on to this greater responsibility I think all moms think about but aren’t always sure how to tackle. How do I help my daughter avoid some of the health, weight and body image issues I had? How can I help her establish a strong sense of self and decent confidence? How exactly can I help her love her body when I’m still working to love my own?
Aha – that’s it! That is the key. Working to help my daughter understand, accept and love her own body will help me on my path to doing the same.
Want to know how I have set the groundwork? Here are some thought starters from my home to yours.
- Food is Fuel. From an early age I have been explaining that our bodies are like machines and like any machine it needs good fuel to have enough energy to move, think and do all the things that we want. Food acts as the fuel for people.
- Sometimes Foods and Always Foods. In our home there is no food that is GOOD or BAD. No food is off-limits. However food requires respect. We have categorized foods into Always Foods that include all fruits, veggies, proteins and slow digesting carbs such as potatoes, rice and oats. Sometimes foods include candy, ice cream and fast absorbing carbs like cake and pizza. Always foods can be eaten at any time and should be selected first to be eaten. Sometimes foods are left until the end of the meal and eaten if still hungry. So far this strategy has been working. More often than not my daughter leaps for cucumber, raspberries, oatmeal and chicken breast in lieu of pizza and chicken nuggets. In fact my proudest moment was at a fast food restaurant where she spit out the chicken and cried – THAT is NOT chicken. LOL.
- The Best Food Comes From The Ground. Our family makes a trip out to the farm several times through the summer and fall to pick our own strawberries, apple and root veggies. It’s so much fun to go as a family for the afternoon while also learning where our food comes from.
- The Grocery Store is Fun. Since my maternity leave days I’ve been bringing my daughter to the grocery store. Showing her all the colours of the fruits and veggies. Bringing some of them close for her to smell. Now she helps us make our grocery list by adding the fruits and veggies she would like to purchase along with placing them in the bag at the store.
- Cooking is an Experiment. While most days I’d like to just prepare a meal as quickly as possible I find time a few days a week to have my toddlers hands help prepare. Whether it’s a quick stir of the pot, seasoning the food or actually rolling rice wraps herself it’s important that she understands how food arrives at the table and comes to appreciate this process early. Bonus – if she becomes a chef and takes on this process all together.
- My Body Talks to Itself. It seemed like overnight that my daughter started to eat her food as if she were competing in a pie eating contest. Shoveling food into her mouth, barely chewing and swallowing so quickly. So I explained that our body talks to itself all the time. Our mind and our tummy like to have conversations before we eat, while we eat and after we eat. They talk about whether it’s time to eat, what to eat and when it’s time to stop eating. If we eat too fast our body doesn’t have enough time to make these choices and can get confused. That’s one way our body gets a tummy ache. No child likes a stomach ache so this strategy has helped significantly slow down her pace while eating. (Another post to come on benefits of eating slowly and taking our time to enjoy a meal!)
- I Look Good in That. To cultivate positive body image I have my daughter help me pick her clothes. When she’s dressed I ask her to take a look in the mirror and ask her to tell me what her favorite part is about herself. Some days it’s her hair other days its her eyes and on some occasions it’ll be her tummy or just the colours she’s wearing. My goal here is to bring awareness to her body and link what she likes about herself.
- I’m GREAT at Everything Because I Try Everything. In our home we have cultivated a culture of trying. We try everything all the time. We try a new food, a new game a new approach to doing just about anything. This attitude is brought over to help my daughter with being open-minded about what she does not yet know how to do. It allows her to think anything is possible if I just make an attempt. It helps her become comfortable with taking risks and seeing her efforts pay off.
While these eight approaches from my home are laying the foundation at 3.5 years old I know there are tougher conversations ahead. My goal from her birth up to today has been and will always be to keep an open mind, be positive, reinforce that every body is normal and that every body is perfect as it is.