Do you know of any reading or articles around what can be done to help reverse or heal a fat shamed child? My niece Leila has had several bad experience with her doctor. As a fat woman, and a formerly “fat-shamed-for-my-own-good” child myself, my heart breaks for her. At nearly fifty, this issue has been with me all my life. I have asked my sister to please find a kinder, more compassionate doctor for her daughter. But as an aunty, how can I help? I have done some power googling but am struggling to find some ways I can have conversations with Leila that can help reverse the emotional damage already likely done. Do you have any suggestions?
This is a really tough situation. The plain fact is that the War on Obesity has casualties and those casualties include parents and kids. There are several tactics that I might use in this situation,
First, which the reader tried, is talking to the parent(s)/guardians. You can tell them your personal story if you think that will help, you can try to help them see that logically kids who hate their bodies are much less likely to see those bodies as worthy of care. You can also give them statistics and research. whatever you think will help them see the problem and support their kid. If you actually witness the fat shaming, here are some options to try.
You can model Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size talk about how much you love your own body, appreciate the beauty of bodies of all sizes if beauty is your thing, compliment the kid on things other than just appearance – how strong they are, graceful, creative, funny etc.
I have a talk called “The World is Messed Up, You Are Fine” that I’ve given to people from third graders to adults and I think it’s a really important message for kids to hear – that a lot of times adults, including adults we’re supposed to trust, do super messed up things, often meaning well. When it comes to body size and health right now the world is pretty messed up -people insist that bodies are good or bad depending on what size they are and there’s a lot of prejudice, negative body talk, and bullying that happens around size. There are even some doctors who believe this, and even think that they can make guesses about how healthy someone is by what they look like. The truth is that people come in lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and all bodies are good bodies.
Help the kid explore different activities that they might like, help them try a variety of foods, explain that neither our health nor our size is completely within our control, and that people should never be bullied about either. Explain that our bodies are wonderful and they deserve to be taken care of just like anything important that is ours, explain that taking care of our bodies can be fun,and that it includes listening to our bodies and appreciating them.
Give them books like Amanda’s Big Dream by Judith Matz and Elizabeth Patch (you can check out the book and the conversation guide at www.amandasbigdream.com, and the Girls Are Not Chicks Coloring Book. Buy them some cool body positive art for gifts.
Point the kid in the direction of role models of lots of different sizes, colors, dis/abilities, ages etc. who do lots of cool things – singing, dancing, acting, sports, writing, crafting, activism and more.
Talk to the kid and let them know that you are there for them and that they can always talk to you about anything.
If you have other suggestions, by all means leave them in the comments. We can do better by our kids than body shaming them, and we should.
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