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How to be a body positive role model for your children

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1 January 1970

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Accept yourself as you are and your children will follow your example. Suzy Cato shares practical ways to be kinder to yourself and connect with your kids.

Do you know how much you’re loved and how beautiful you are? You’re beautiful of thought, beautiful of heart, beautiful of face, beautiful of body, beautiful of soul – and so are your precious tamariki.

Our beautiful selves, and especially our bodies, are often subjected to harsh judgment and criticism – from ourselves more than from anyone else. Unfortunately, cruel comments or thoughts about ourselves are starting at an increasingly younger age, and gender is no barrier.

We’re not born hating our bodies. Most often, it’s a learned behaviour, if not picked up at home then in the playground. With the prevalence of social media and its glamourised lifestyles, the focus on figures, hair, nails, tans, noses, legs, boobs, abs and buxom behinds are more in the spotlight than ever before.

Young girl looking in the mirror
Having confidence in our own bodies can help kids learn to celebrate their differences, rather than pass judgement.

Yet with some simple steps – and sometimes an adjustment of our own thoughts – we can not only prevent our children from judging themselves unnecessarily, but also help to them not to allow other people’s unkind words to affect them.

I’m the first to put my hand up. As a child and a teen, and even as a young adult, I was my own worst critic of everything: my looks, my height, my figure, myself. When I realised there was more to be gained from celebrating who I am and making the most of my precious time on Earth, it was like a light had been switched on inside – the whole world became a better and far more enjoyable place.

I still gaze in wonder at the beautiful shape and form of my two children. It’s incredible to think that their little bodies, once squishy and soft as newborns, have grown to tower long and lithe above me as young adults (well one has, and the other is on her way).

Our bodies are a wonder of science and the most amazing artworks. We need to celebrate ourselves as such, so our children will celebrate themselves that way, too.

Young girl holding iPhone

Suzy’s top tips

  1. At every opportunity, tell your children they’re beautiful inside and out. It’s not about being the “most” or “more” beautiful. It’s about celebrating them for their own innate virtues – never comparing them with others.
  2. Embrace imperfections. As a newborn, my daughter scratched herself on the face with a sharp fingernail. The tiny scar has become another reason she’s unique and special.
  3. Some children notice the differences between people more than others, and it’s not that they’re judgemental – it often just shows that they’re curious. Conversations that start with “Why…?” or “What…?” present a great opportunity to point out how we all differ in so many ways.
  4. Just as you’d never say anything derogatory about your child’s body shape and size, never speak negatively about your own body – and not just in front of your child, but also to yourself. There may be things you’d like to change and there are things you can change, but how does the saying go? “May I have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” If we embrace this, our children are more likely to as well.
  5. Encourage your kids to be active. I was a book warrior as a child. I read with the speed of a Silver Fern’s pivot and tackled novels like an All Black, but I didn’t know a football from a hockey ball until I stood on the sideline for my kids. Both my children demolish books the way I did, but they’ve also enjoyed a wide variety of sports over the years and it has done them the world of good.
  6. Walk – to school, to the shops, to the park, in the bush, along the beach, even just around the block. Walking is a great way to release pent-up energy and clear the air, and doing it together is an invaluable time of discovery with little kids and a gateway to conversation with older ones.
Mother and kids taking selfie on phone
  1. Try using affirmations. I am beautiful. I am loved. I am perfect the way I am. I am happy. I am a wonderful friend. Start the sentence with “I am” and choose your perfect outcome.
  2. Remember that every face is made more beautiful by a smile, and every body is made more beautiful by confidence – not arrogance or conceit, but the belief that they’re loved unconditionally for who they are.
  3. We’re all perfect in our imperfection. You are beautiful, and so are your tamariki. Know that. Believe that. Live that. Love that. Be free to be you and to allow your children to shine along with you.

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