As a sexuality educator and as a mother, the most transformative mothering I do is to teach my 6 year old daughter to love herself and her body. I want the self confidence, strength and delight she has in her body now, to bond with the cells in her body, so she will have a buffer zone against the onslaught of messages about how she “needs” to change who she is or how she looks in order to be happy or loved. It’s taken me about 40 years to draw a truce with my body. I’d like to spare my daughter all that pain, lost time, lost energy, and lost love (mostly self-love). Teaching body love is the way to go!
Teaching Body Love – how I do it at home
There are countless opportunities throughout the day to reinforce body awareness and love. Here are some of the ways I teach my daughter to honor, love, and respect her body.
Talking about how strong she is and the things she can accomplish with her body.
Daily talking about what we are grateful to our bodies for and one thing we can do do take care of ourselves.
Avoiding talk about being “good” or “bad” in regards to what we eat or to how much she or I or anyone else weighs.
Talking about what I love about my body.
Talking about what makes us beautiful and strong.
Teaching her to tune into her feelings and her body by talking about where she feels them in her body.
Focusing on the things that feel good in our bodies (whether it’s clothes or touch) not on what “looks good”.
Touching her body with respect and love.
Educating About Sexuality
I have always used correct names for her body parts, including her “sexual” body parts. I do this because I know this will encourage confidence and empowerment. I do this because acknowledging our bodies respectfully safeguards us from shame and guilt. Being a sexuality educator, I know that girls and women are more likely to take care of their bodies if they feel positively about them.
I also teach my daughter to love and respect her body by teaching her about consent. I make sure she knows that she has a right to say who touches her body and how. We talk about how certain touch makes her feel. We talk about how she can speak up when touch does not feel comfortable. Sometimes a hug will feel good and sometimes it won’t. She gets to decide. After all, it’s her body. I try to help extend lessons like that to my daughter’s friends, too, indirectly. My girl is learning to check in with friends and loved ones about whether or not they want a kiss or a hug.
Words –mine and my daughter’s– are powerful. So we have a “safe word” in our house: the moment it is uttered, all activity stops. My daughter knows that her words have power, and she gets to practice using that power.
Giving it a try at your home
I know we, as mothers, are not the only forces regarding our children’s body image. But I am hoping my effort to share body empowerment will help strengthen my daughter’s immunity against the many cultural messages she’s going to receive about beauty. What makes girls and women beautiful is their inner brilliance, and it feels really fabulous to see that developing in my daughter.
What do you do to encourage your child’s body love?
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P.P.S: Check out tomorrow’s post by Alexandria Makley-Martinez, Bella Mundo Birth about what mothers need from themselves, and others, to be truly happy in their mothering role. I am so looking forward to reading it!