Wednesday, July 10, 2013

For Parents.

Anon wanted to hear some of my ideas about raising tiny humans with good self image etc.

Now I'm going to be kind of tough on you for a minute parents. So let's do this.

The first thing I need for parents (and please not I include ANYBODY who is in charge of the care of a tiny human) to do is work on your own issues.

The thing is tiny humans are way more observant than we think. Tiny humans hear and see everything and even if they don't have the vocabulary to say so, they will know if you are bullshitting them.

First thing is this. Stop talking about bodies in a value assessed way. I mean that. Including pining for the thighs you had at 16, including talking about how marvelous your body could be or might be or is in your dreams. Start now. Stop doing that.

Second, do not talk shit about your own body. Don't say self deprecating things like, once on the lips bablabla, don't talk about how if only you could get your fat ass in some skinny jeans.

Tiny humans will take that in and learn that if their parental unit has a terrible body ,their bodies must be terrible too. So stop it.

Also don't fat talk. Learn to change your vocabulary. If you are bloated don't say you feel fat say you feel bloated. Or if you're sad say you're sad.

The point of this is to not only teach yourself to value your body but to show your kids that it is possible to value their own bodies.

Think of it this way. If a tiny human grows up hearing how awful Mummy's fat ass is and they become teenaged humans and have a fat ass, what is the logical conclusion? Their ass is awful too. So start there.

Next thing is don't not praise your kids looks. Be unreserved and unabashed at telling your tiny humans, my GOSH you are a beautiful human. Tell them they are smart and strong. Tell them that yes, sometimes they poop on the floor but that they are magnificent and it would be awesome if they didn't poop on the floor. Also pay attention to how your tiny humans process this. If you have a more shy tiny human don't yell out the car window that your tiny human is the most awesome. If you are caring for a tiny human with a big extrovert personality throw a goddamn party.

Now I also want you to be mindful about how you talk about other people. Practice saying to your tiny human, wow that person has on some really fancy shoes or has an awesome hairdo. This next bit is hard.

When your tiny human inevitably asks why is that person so fat here is where you can do some good. If you believe in a deity you can say without judgement, because (insert deity here) made them that way. Tiny human will probably ask why in which case you can say, I dunno maybe someday we can ask (insert deity here).

Don't freak out. Don't hush your kid. If the person you're talking about can hear you, nod at them and smile.

TIny humans are insatiably curious. they are curious about bodies especially bodies that are different from their own and their immediate adults. Let them ask questions, if they say something rude you can say, that is rude please don't talk that way.  Teach your kids how to ask before touching someone.

Basically teach your kids to treat other people the way you would like people to treat you.

As for health and fitness that can be a slippery slope,

If you  yourself don't like to be pressured or shamed into eating one thing over another, don't do that to your kids Easier said than done.

Don't (in my opinion) buy into the hype of health and fitness language. Don't battle, fight etc. Avoid judgement and value laden phrases. Be sensible.

Barring allergies most likely having a cheeseburger at Micky D's every now and then won't be the most awful thing ever. And remember, when tiny humans become teenaged humans if you denied them everything with flavor, salt, fat and sugar they are probably going to gorge themselves away from home and that is not good for anybody.

Let me give you an example from my life.

I knew a woman with a teenaged daughter. This woman was so hellbent on her child being healthy and fit she not only made food outside of a narrow ideal evil but she also spet a lot of time shaming her kid (not on purpose_) abot her desire to try things like whole milk and Burger King,

As happens her daughter once she had her own money would eat herself sick on all of the verboten foods and they would have these epic fights about it. Not only did it cause them both to have some terrible issues about food but it also caused a big painful rift in their relationship.

As the saying goes, the road to hell is paverd wih good intentions.

Instead of insisting that everyone have X amount of xercise a day because HEALTH AND OH SHIT DON'T BE FAT- find out what your tiny human likes to do.

Maybe you have a tiny Human who loves to dance, or swim, or play a sport or go for nature walks. Also keep a eye on yourself. If your kid doesn't want to go for a walk don't get anxious. Keep yourself in check and remember that even the best intentioned encouragement can turn into shame in the ears of your child.

Anon you in particular. Since you are expetcting a new tiny human (CONGRATULATIONS!) may I suggest some special things for you and Tiny Human#1.

This is stuff I've done with children I have cared for at various times..

Mommy Tiny human bedtime stretching. Especially for kids like I was who might struggle with sleep some light chill out stretching before bed might be nice. Nice easy gentle chill out stretches. You get to bond, it's good for both of you and it's a nice way to introduce stretching. And with Tiny Human#1 n still being pretty ittle you can cuddle and have good loving physcal contact.

Mommy and Tiny Human dance party. Put on some goofy music with a beat and shake what you got. When Tiny Human #2can hold their head up get them in on it too. I stand by my belief that all babies love to dance. Let the babies dance. You dance too. Get goofy, teach the babies how to do the twist or bust out your best running man.

Basically I'm talking about making physical activity at whatever level you're all able to do a good time. Laugh. Smile, act like a fool. Show those tiny humans that it's okay to enjoy being in your body. As they get older even if you are the ost body positive parent they may still have issues.

Let's talk about the day your kid has an issue with their body. Maybe they are't fast runners or soe little asshole at school said they are fat or gross.

Never invalidate how they feel about this. Don't shove the happy thoughts, let them have their feelings and let them know that a.) the person who hurt their feelings is being a jerk and b.) it's okay if they are sad or feeling gross. tell them that no, not everyone is going to be a super fast runner or be thin and that is okay.

My idea is to reinforce the idea that their body in whatever configuration it is in, is a good and awesome body. that their body is special and that they don't have  to feel bad about it. Remember to help them think and feel through it. Tell them that sometimes you don't feel so awesome about your body and how you are dealing with it.

Don't necessarily bombard your kids with your issues but let them know that it's normal and okay to have a hard time.

To prepare read fat blogs. read books about body image and get familiar with perspectives outside of your own. Have reading materials around the house. For those with older kids, You can get in on this too.

Have stuff around to read. tell your kids you saw a badass fat dancer on youtube and share it with them/ Have ender variant kids? Get on tumblr and find other gender variant kids.

These kids are so lucky, there are so many places around the internet where we can show them that they are not alone in whatever tis going on with their bodies.

Overall my advice to parents is to work on your issues so you don't pass them on to your kids.

If you spent 15 years being afraid to seek  treatment for mental illness, make sure your kids know if they need it, you will help them get it. Make your home a safe place to come out of the closet or play with gender presentation.

I believe that in addition to the basics it's important for more parents to make their homes a safe space. I'm not talking about being perfect. I'm talking about kids knowing that imperfect and confused or uncomfotable as a kid might be, they can come home and be loved no matter what. that is more difficult than ever teaching your kids to eat healthy or enjoy fitness.

Parents you are just as lucky. There are more free and readily available resources for you to learn about things like gender variance, dysmporphia, Queerness, fatness, etc

Also please remember parents sometimes you are going to royally fuck up. Sometimes it will be major and you might be apologizing for years or it might not be a big dal. If you realize you screwed up say you're sorry and mean it. Remember to take care of yourself.

If that means you need therapy or a time out or a babysitter for an hour so you can take a bath and havr a poop in peace.

I have faith in you parents. I am heavily invested in your kids being okay. I want them to go forth into the world being amaznig human beings and I am willing to help in what ways I can. And parents I want you to be okay too. I want you and I to get really old and smile while your kids do great and beauiful thngs.

Anon I have to tell you that I have the smartest most awesome readers in the world so I turn it over to you homies. Do y'all have any advice? Stories from your own childhoods or parental foibles?

Homo Out.

1 comment:

rebecca said...

A long time ago, my friend O was caring for a tiny boy. He asked her one day, "Why is there hair on your legs?" She answered, "Most grownups grow hair on their legs. Some choose to shave it off." "Oh!" he said, "When I grow up, I'm going to be one of the ones who shaves it off."

I always loved her genderless answer.

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