Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

pretty-woman-635258_1280“I hate my body.” “My thighs are too big; my hair is too thin and I don’t like what I see in the mirror.”  

Do you ever think or say that? Do you obsess over your appearance? Those imperfections you see in the mirror—do they define your view of self? If so, keep those thoughts to yourself if you have children near you.

So much of a child’s attitude about his or her body comes from listening to how parents and other people talk about their bodies. If a parent is constantly dieting, making negative remarks, obsessing on fat and talking about the way other people look, children pick up on these themes and may feel they don’t measure up to perceived ideals. You set the stage for a child’s healthy view of self, early on in life.

Because we are all made in the image of God, God values us for who we are, not based on our physical appearance. The unconditional love of God is a message you want to give your children no matter what their flaws or imperfections. But first, you have to believe this message or it won’t be convincing. Do you accept God’s unconditional love for you? Or does His love and everyone else’s have to do with how you look? Parents, check your attitudes about your body. The messages you tell yourself often get passed on to your kids and young adults unknowingly.

Often, the emotional pain that comes from being teased or overweight can create self-hatred and lead to depression, anxiety and social isolation.  Children are faced with an unsympathetic culture when it comes to body image and feel pressure to conform to ideas of beauty and thinness that are not always healthy. Don’t add to their uncertainty about whether they look “good enough” with your own self-doubt. Instead, emphasize your love for them no matter what, and be kind to your own body in front of them.

Now, be healthy, don’t overeat due to stress and model unhealthy habits. But when it comes to how you talk about your body, be accepting. The goal is to teach children to eat well and develop healthy habits and be accepting of how they are designed.

When you refuse to measure up to some cultural ideal, you are winning the battle for self-acceptance. Don’t compare yourselves to others. God didn’t make a mistake when he put His image in you. Believe this and then reinforce this message to your kids! Help them develop a healthy self-image.

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