A shopping trip has your son asking you questions about his size. Your recent health journey has people asking about your weight loss in front of your daughter. Your mom talks about your kids’ bodies—to them. As adults, we know what people say to us is actually a mirror into their issues and we still struggle to not take comments about our bodies personally. But because cognition develops into our 20s, it is even harder for kids to navigate these comments. Parents need to be as proactive as possible about what messages their children hear and redirect them when necessary. Here we offer scripts for three different situations to handle weight discussions.
Read Related: I’m Not Giving My Daughter an Eating Disorder!
During a shopping trip, your son gets upset when he realizes he still wears a size 7 when he is 9 years old. “Why isn’t my clothing size my age anymore,” he asks.
Difficult fitting room experiences can make you feel like your body is wrong, and that message is debilitating. Nothing is wrong with your son, obviously. He is just at the age where bodies develop at different rates and yet clothing is made in production. Help him develop some ease around clothing sizes and an ability to see them just as a tool and not as a judgment.
The script: Every body is different and grows at different rates. Sometimes you’ll see people who are really tall because that is how their body is meant to grow right now and sometimes you’ll see people with lots of muscles because that is how they are supposed to grow right now. Nothing is right or wrong on a body. It’s just about what your body is doing right now.
As you get older, sizes aren’t really about your age any more, and not all sizes—from store to store or style to style—will be the same. Sometimes we’ll need a 7 in one store and a 9 in another and sometimes we’ll need a 7 for one part of our body and a 9 for another part. The numbers don’t really mean anything other than to give us a guide when we are trying to choose what to try on.
A recent wellness journey for you has resulted in significant weight loss. Now everyone you see is commenting on how much weight you lost and how good you look, and it is often in front of your daughter. What do you say?
Moms fail to realize that our children already think we’re beautiful. If our body changes and we act as if the new body is better, they learn to redefine beauty—abandoning their understanding and moving towards the one society has handed to them. So, when you reply to people’s remarks, the most important audience is your child. You want to make sure she understands that while taking care of yourself matters, our weight isn’t what determines our worth.
The script: I got so busy for awhile that I wasn’t able to take the time I needed for myself. But as time passes, I just want to feel as strong and sharp as I can so I’ve been adding more self-care to my list, too. The important thing is that I feel better and have more energy to do fun stuff with you now!
Abuelita loves to comment to your teen daughter about her changing body. Though Latinas from a certain generation aren’t afraid to talk—and criticize—one another’s bodies, you know this isn’t healthy for your daughter. What do you do?
First, approach Abuelita.
The script: I know you didn’t mean any harm but this is a different time than when you grew up and we can’t be casual with body comments with kids today. I really need for you to not say anything to Sofia about her body size or development that might make her self-conscious.
If she does it again, you have to follow up with her about the specific boundaries.
The next step is to have a direct conversation with your daughter about the situation.
The script: I overheard what Grandma said earlier, and I know what she said might have been frustrating. How did it make you feel? Remember that Grandma is of a generation that really didn’t understand ideas of different body types and stages of development, so just try to brush her comments aside.
Listen to her thoughtfully and let her know she can come back to you at any time.