How to create a body positivity journal
Have you noticed your child making negative comments about their body? Or maybe you’ve watched them tug at their clothes in front of the mirror? Or you’ve noted that their social media feeds are full of unrealistic body types?
You’re certainly not alone. Research shows that up to 50 percent of teens are self-conscious about their bodies. For young women, body image is considered one of their top concerns with one study reporting that at age thirteen, 53% of American girls are “unhappy with their bodies.” Research also shows that around 25 percent of male teens are concerned about muscularity and leanness.
It’s no secret that youth are spending an average of between six to eight hours per day on screens, much of it on social media. And as you are probably aware, social media can bombard all users with beauty ideals that are highly filtered and unattainable.
Since adolescence is such a vulnerable time for the development of body image issues, it can be helpful to have go-to tools to help your child or teen cultivate confidence in exactly who they are.
What is body image?
Body image is how we think and feel about our physical appearance. How we feel about ourselves can range from positive to negative and can change over time. Someone can have a healthy or unhealthy image of their bodies, regardless of how they look.
Having a healthy body image may include being able to appreciate, honor, accept, and respect one’s body. It can be associated with having high self-esteem, along with healthy habits and behaviors.
Having an unhealthy body image can include having persistent negative thoughts about one’s body. It can contribute to lower self-esteem, a fixation on changing one's body, and lead to unhealthy habits or behaviors.
Talking to your child about body image
- Start a healthy narrative. You can begin to proactively teach your child that people naturally come in many shapes and sizes and that there are no “bad” bodies — all bodies are good bodies. Discuss why many things we see in the media are unrealistic, and remind them of all of their talents and positive attributes that have nothing to do with their bodies. .
- Get curious. The next time your child makes a comment about their body, open up the dialogue and ask them more about what they’re feeling or thinking. As much as you may be tempted to jump in and correct them or tell them that they are perfect as they are, try to take the time to simply listen and hold space for what they’re going through. Validate and normalize their feelings along the way.
- Teach empathy. It’s important to make it a household rule that treating other people with respect is non-negotiable. This includes avoiding talking about other people’s bodies without their permission. You may need to set firm boundaries with people close to you, like relatives who comment on weight, by gently explaining that this type of commentary can have a negative effect on kids.
- Model it. Kids learn so much from watching the adults around them, so let your child or teen hear you practicing self-love. Instead of putting down the way your body looks or talking about wanting to change your appearance, give yourself a compliment like, “This outfit makes me feel super confident!” It may feel awkward at first, but it’s one of the single most powerful actions you can take to improve your child’s self-esteem and body image.
Why journaling helps
Journaling, or writing down our thoughts and feelings, can be a powerful tool in observing and processing what we’re experiencing in the moment. And it can actually help us to feel better by improving our mood and lowering stress.
Writing without judging ourselves can help us begin to uncover how all of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected to each other, as well as what kind of limiting beliefs we might hold so that we can start to change them for the better.
The great news is that journaling doesn’t cost a thing (aside from a pen and paper), and it can be done anywhere, anytime. If writing down words doesn’t work for your child, remember that drawing or doodling counts as journaling too!
How to start a body positivity journal
Once you have opened up the conversation, try encouraging your child or teen to jot down their thoughts and feelings in regard to their bodies — or anything else that’s on their mind.
Noting when they’re feeling anxious, sad, frustrated, angry, happy, confident, or any other emotion can help them on the journey to a healthier relationship with their body. Writing about these thoughts can relieve stress, manage anxiety, and lead to increased confidence.
Help your child or teen find a quiet, calming space and ask if they’d like privacy to journal. Have them grab a notebook, journal, piece of paper, Google doc, or however they like to write or draw and give them these prompts to get started:
- I’m happiest when….
- I feel most confident when…
- I feel most motivated when…
- 3 words I would use to describe myself are…
- 3 things that I like most about myself are…
- 3 things that put me in a good mood are…
Encourage them to notice and appreciate positive attributes that have NOTHING to do with their body. Then ask them to begin to notice the thoughts that they hold about themselves and what behaviors are connected to these thoughts. What kind of limiting beliefs do they hold, and how can they start to challenge them?
Remind your child that they can return to this private journal anytime they need to vent, process, or calm down. And let them know that journaling may feel strange at first, but they’ll likely get more comfortable with it over time.
For younger kids, ask them to draw a self-portrait, and label a few body parts and talk about the reasons they are thankful for them. Maybe they are grateful for their eyes that can see their friends during recess, or their legs that help them run fast during soccer practice, or their mouth that can taste delicious ice cream.
Write a letter of self-acceptance
To help your child tap into self-compassion, you can show them how to write a supportive letter to themselves. Follow these steps:
- Encourage your child to think of someone who is unconditionally loving, accepting, and kind. This could be a best friend, teacher, coach, or a loved one.
- Next, have them think about the kindness that radiates from that person and all of the ways that person shows up for them and accepts them for exactly who they are.
- Now ask them to write a letter to themselves from the perspective of that person. What would that person say to show unconditional compassion? How would they show kindness, especially when your child is struggling or being hard on themselves? Ask them to notice how they understand, accept, and offer support.
- Your child can tuck this letter away and read it anytime they need to offer themselves unconditional love and compassion.
In case no one has told you today, you’re doing a wonderful job as a caregiver! Giving your child the tools and language to learn to love and accept their bodies, exactly as they are, is a gift that will last a lifetime. Remember that Bend is here anytime your family needs extra support, so reach out to get care.