by Brenda’s Child
At 34, I can still remember dieting at eleven, so I could look like Janet Jackson in her “Love Will Never Do” video.
t wasn’t the media alone that shaped how I should view my body. It was being told in 6th grade that my grey pants suit made me look like an elephant. It was being taunted by my uncle about not being able to beat my sister in a foot race because being so big made me slow. It was being told by my so-called best friend at twelve that my crush wouldn’t like me back because even though I had I cute face, I was flat-chest and I needed to lose weight. It was another friend who explained to me that the reason I didn’t have stretch marks like she did was because I was meant to be fat so my skin didn’t need to be stretched.
My point in all this is that the world is cold enough without parents and loved ones making it colder. Black girls do have body image issues and prevention starts at home. A 10-year-old should not be on a diet, nor be told that she needs to go on one! As parents, we are her first line of defense against negative body images. There are too many creative ways to ensure your child leads a healthy lifestyle. Exercise can be camouflaged in dance, jump rope, and sports. Healthy food habits start at home with you. You cannot feed your child processed food, juice boxes, and chips for eight years and then suddenly become health conscious; it’s hypocritical. It’s up to you to teach your child about portion control and drinking enough water. We play secret agents all of the time to disguise cough medicine, why can’t we do the same for fruits, veggies, and protein?
The other part of securing a growing girl’s self acceptance is following the same order you often find yourself shouting, “Watch your mouth!” Whoever coined that phrase about sticks and stones hurting and but words do not? They didn’t know a thing. The human body is amazing in its capacity to heal external wounds, especially in young people. But internal wounds are much more complicated. As adults, we can’t remember every time we scraped a knee or tripped on a stair. However, many of us can recall the teasing, the cruel nicknames, and in some cases the bullying. Not only is it wrong to constantly remind your child of her weight or constantly deprive her of treats, that’s how people end up hiding food, or binging and purging.
What’s equally important is that you have a positive body image. When your child hears you call yourself fat, or constantly talking about diets, she can internalize this and eventually develop a warped perspective of what is attractive. It’s like baking a cake, too much of one thing, and not enough of the other can destroy the outcome.
BMWK, how do you build up self-esteem and positive body image in your children?
Brenda’s Child is a mother, special education teacher, poet, and founder the mentoring program Keep Youth Dreaming and Striving. Her memoir, The Right Amount of Sunshine…Cultivating Little Girls into Young Ladies, is just one of the many ways she is fulfilling her mission to inspire others through poetry,stories, and leading by example.