Children and Self Image

An odd thing happened this morning. It’s cold here in Oklahoma, so my daughter put on her large, fluffy coat before school. She talks non-stop, so she was saying several things, then started explaining how she doesn’t like putting her seatbelt on in the car when she’s wearing her big coat. I tell her, “That’s too bad! We have to be safe.” Then she says the strangest thing. “I also don’t like wearing this big coat because I feel fat.”

What the, what!? This child is as skinny as a rail! And she’s 6! I was shocked.

I sat down with her and asked her if someone told her she is fat. She said no. I then explained to her that she is beautiful and perfect, and that her coat is just fluffy so it will keep her warm. I explained that I know it’s uncomfortable to wear, but that it does not affect the way she looks. We continued talking and I realized that more than anything she’s just sick of having to wear it. It’s almost spring and she’s antsy about it. So I directed her to talking about spring and summer activities, how much fun we’ll have playing outside, and how lovely the warm weather will be. In the end, I’m sure she was just referring to how puffy and restricting her coat is, and not to her actual body size. I hope.

It hurt so much to hear her say that. My husband and I have drastically changed our lifestyles this year and we’re careful to not talk about our bodies poorly in front of the kids. I have a terrible self-image that stems from years of people (parents included) telling me I was overweight when I really wasn’t. I also relied on god to get me through things and never really built up my confidence on my own. I do not want her to grow up feeling that way about herself. This must be nipped in the bud. I hope I handled it properly.

She’s really a very confident kid, mostly because we allow her to make her own decisions and lift her up with praise and physical affection often. I hope it’s isolated, and I hope she looks in the mirror and sees a beautiful person on the inside and the outside.

How do you talk to your children about beauty and self-image?

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