Raising children in this body-insane world is really hard.
The most important thing I did was tell my daughters the truth. I hope my life reflected the truths I told. I don’t believe in protecting my children from ideas or realities (including economic ones), and I gave them reasonable physical freedom in the world, including the freedom to make mistakes.
I’ve raised two daughters (now in their 40s and 30s) who are pretty okay on body image. They are not contributing to the beauty/medical insanity. I’m not sure that my answers are everybody’s answers, or that what I did was ideal, but it worked pretty well for us.
I do usually feel good about myself. I’ve never dieted – I’m a fast burner with a low set point – so I had an unusually good start. One of the major reasons I’ve continued to feel good about myself as I’ve aged is almost 20 years of activist work.
I thought that they were beautiful and told them so often.
I love good food and so do my kids. We cooked and ate together. We had an open refrigerator. I do believe in healthy food but I also believe in treats. I don’t believe in restricting the amount of food they eat. And they got to spend their own money outside the home on their own choice of foods. Did they always choose wisely? No. One daughter would buy candy that she was allergic to. I bit my tongue (hard) and didn’t turn it into a major control issue. She eventually got tired of getting sick and stopped.
When media messages (TV, movies, magazines, music) ran past us, we talked and I commented and analyzed a lot. It worked really well. And now my daughters, as adults, comment and analyze … a lot.
When the inevitable happened – “They say I’m fat!” “They’re teasing me about my breasts/ass/legs/hair.” – I was really clear that “they” were wrong. “They” were jerks, and there were reasons for that, and we discussed them. I’m not saying that my kids’ feelings didn’t get hurt, but I could give them a lot of support.
I really encouraged physical activity of any kind. I wasn’t very active myself as a child, but I was as an adult, and that helped.
We had supportive friends. We went to places and events that reflected our values. My younger daughter was an early and enthusiastic fan of Fat Lip Readers Theatre.
My grown-up daughters are fabulous. I take some credit, but it really does take a sane community to raise a sane child.