An EDAW Challenge
During Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW), many teachers across the country will be preparing lessons and activities that promote a healthy body image among students. Parents will attend community events, and may even make an extra effort to promote a body positive environment within their homes. While all of these efforts and activities are both commended and encouraged during EDAW, the efforts can’t stop here. It isn’t enough to simply speak to our children in a manner that promotes a healthy attitude towards food, and it isn’t enough to provide a well-planned and creative lesson that encourages an acceptance of all body types. To be truly effective teachers and mentors on the topic of body image and self-esteem, we must be living examples of people who accept and love their bodies as they are. To say this is a difficult task would be an understatement. However, it is a necessary and worthwhile challenge that we should all consider this EDAW.
Children are incredibly perceptive. As a professional working in the field of school psychology, I work with children on a daily basis, and I’m always astonished by how impressionable and attuned they are. For instance, they can tell you that their mom wants to lose 10 pounds, and doesn’t like being photographed in her bathing suit. They can also tell you that their dad wishes he had bigger muscles, and wasn’t losing his hair. As adults, we may think that we are protecting our children from our own insecurities and negative attitudes towards our bodies and food. However, despite our best intentions, many children still sense these attitudes and insecurities.
Children see the way we shy away from the camera at the beach. They hear the offhand comments we make to our friends and colleagues about our dissatisfaction with certain body parts. They see our mood change when we are getting dressed to go out, or when we decide to remove carbs from our diet. Thus, we can provide a well-planned, meaningful lesson for our students, and we can have a meaningful conversation with our child about appreciating all shapes and sizes. However, the second a child overhears us berating own bodies with our colleagues and friends, these meaningful messages are sabotaged. Promoting a positive body image and healthy attitude towards food demands more than simply saying the right things to children. It requires that we, as adults, practice the messages we teach.
So this EDAW, I encourage you to continue to implement the fantastic lessons you have planned, attend the community events in your area, and compliment your children on their wonderful personality characteristics, and all the amazing things their bodies can do. However, I also challenge you to accept compliments from others, have kinder conversations with yourselves, and refrain from criticizing your bodies with friends. This EDAW, be the role models who exhibit the kind of body appreciation and confidence that you hope your children and students will exhibit as well.
Sera Rossi is a former NEDIC volunteer, and holds a Master's degree in School and Clinical Child Psychology from OISE/University of Toronto. She currently works in the field of school psychology.
Note from NEDIC: check out Beyond Images, our free body image and media literacy curriculum for children in grades 4-8