How to Talk to Your Kids About Body Image

By Jessica Wolstenholm

Everyone’s talking about body image. Whether it’s in the context of bullying, healthy lifestyles vs. unhealthy lifestyles, or the ever-present marketing campaigns which depict beauty to be only attainable for those who buy into a particular program or product.

I can honestly tell you that I along with most of my girl friends, who range in age from mid 30’s to early 50’s, are all pretty much dissatisfied with our body’s appearance. We are all educated women, who realize the ideals which are glorified by the media are mostly unattainable…no matter what products we buy. While we range in sizes and shapes, none of us are truly obese. Yeah, most of us would like to lose a few pounds, and tone and tighten areas where age, child rearing and gravity have taken a toll. But there isn’t a couch potato among us. Just the opposite. We are mom’s who stay active, and who are involved in our kids’ education, as well as their extra-curricular activities like sports, band, drama, dance and cheer. We stay busy! We eat a lot of salads and yogurts. We take vitamins and exercise. And ok, we eat an occasional fast-food burger, and may sneak a few fries here and there from our child’s plate, but on the scale of healthy eating vs. unhealthy eating, we really try our hardest to put good things into our bodies… most of the time, and we teach our kids to do the same.

So why do we look at ourselves in the mirror and hate what we see? Why is it that so many of us become obsessed with our physical appearance or a number on the scale?

I used to think that having boys meant I didn’t have to worry about them having body image issues. That isn’t the case! Boys, just like girls, have a huge problem with negative body image, and unfortunately not all of these issues can be blamed on the media. Many of us are guilty of using negative adjectives to describe our own bodies, and sadly, we even throw those ugly words around when talking about others’ bodies. Our kids are absorbing these negativities and then they project that negativity right back onto themselves when they look into the mirror, many times hating the image of themselves in the mirror.

This self hatred is NOT what God wants for any of us. Have we forgotten that we are the craftsmanship of God? As for me, I have forgotten from time to time. I can easily get caught up in the magazine pictures of gorgeous movie stars, and then very easily find myself hating the way I look. We adults are all too familiar with the concept of magazines airbrushing photos, so why do we still long for the unrealistic beauty we see on the pages of those very publications? If adults can be this easy swayed, how much easier is it for our kids to fall victim to the Enemy telling them they’re ugly, too fat, too skinny…worthless?

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

So how do we help ourselves and in turn help our kids see our bodies, which were masterfully created by God, as truly beautiful and wonderfully unique?

For starters we need to remember that we are all God’s masterpieces! It’s important to teach our kids that being God’s masterpiece, we must take care of our selves. Keep in mind, this isn’t appearance driven. It’s very important for us to focus our energies on the sanctifying not the sculpting aspect of our self. Hygiene, sleep, exercise, nutrition, and even sexual conduct all matter. Living a healthy lifestyle is vitally important in maintaining the body God created for us.

Having a Biblical body image is something many of us desire to grow into. I know I do! It’s one in which we change our perspective. We were born into a physical world, but REBORN into a spiritual one. We must take care of the physical body God created for us, but we must keep our heart and mind focused on Jesus. We are to become people who reflect the Lord.

1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

So yes, we must take care of our bodies. They are the workmanship of God and we are to avoid intentionally harming them – not because we want to wear a smaller dress size or erase the crows feet around our eyes. God has created each of us with a unique purpose. Unlike the cultural expectations, we need to start rethinking about our body image, Biblically. No longer mastered by our outward appearance. No longer consumed to change ourselves into someone on the outside that our culture and the Enemy try to convince us will make us happy, complete and worthy of love. Instead we need to focus more on the spiritual world we have been reborn into, while taking care of the physical body God created for us.

Psalm 139:13-14 “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

Lisa Strnad is an independent contractor in Christian media as a writer, marketing consultant, and public relations specialist. She speaks to Christian women’s groups on the issues of motherhood, home schooling and raising a child with special needs. Lisa and her family make their home in Nashville.