Now, more than ever, it is VITAL that we cultivate body positivity for our children. From a young age, kids are bombarded with unrealistic beauty standards in the media, highly gendered toys, and the behaviors and attitudes of their classmates and adults who they encounter on a regular basis. While it may not be possible to shield your child from all of these potentially harmful influences, there are some great children's books out there that can help you start these conversations early and change the trajectory towards a more empowering perception of themselves!
Tyler Feder's newest book, Bodies Are Cool is a fantastically fun way to introduce your child to body diversity and positivity. Rhythmic verses and colorful, exciting illustrations proclaim inclusivity on each and every page. All types of people are represented: people of all different colors and sizes, people with disabilities, people with and without body hair, people with medical devices, people with scars and freckles, and people with different hairstyles! Joyously communing, all of these people participate in activities together at the park, at the cinema, and at the swimming pool!
In Her Body Can by Katie Crenshaw and Ady Meschke, the main character is empowered by the many possibilities and capabilities that her body offers. Instead of focusing on only the outward appearance of her body, the language is much more action-oriented. Our heroine enjoys athletics, indulging in her favorite foods, going shopping at her favorite clothing stores, and smiling at her reflection in the mirror. I found this book such a comforting reminder of self compassion in a world where we are often taught to equate self-love with vanity. Crenshaw and Meschke write, "All bodies are lovely, no matter their size!". The book comes full circle in the end when the girl is pictured in a number of yoga poses and the authors conclude with the line, "And what her body can, darling, yours can do too", with an image of another child in a similar pose.
In addition to the observations they make from the world around them, children learn so much from their own parents or caregivers. Reading books about healthy body positivity and self-talk are just the beginning! Take some time to think about the way in which YOU talk to your body, and whether this is vocalized or exemplified when you are around kids. Kindness toward others begins with kindness toward the self.
If we want to convey these ideas to the younger generations, they must come from a place of authenticity rooted in our own experiences. Every day is a brand-new opportunity to change your inner dialogue to one that is more patient, loving, and forgiving. Books like Bodies Are Cool and Her Body Can are just as much for adults as they are for children. Nashville Public Library is a safe space for all bodies, and books are a fabulous gateway to representation and self empowerment!