Sticks and stones can break their bonesbut words used about food and bodies can hurt too – The Sector

Posted: February 27, 2020 at 12:49 am


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Children learn about the world through the perspective of the caring adults around them. Educators warn children not to touch something, because its too hot. Parents tell children they are gorgeous, cheeky, silly or brave, and children quickly learn what is noticed about their behaviour, and what is ignored.

Using that understanding, it goes without saying that passing on a fear of gaining weight can negatively impact a childs body image and their relationship with food. Many early childhood educators would consider themselves to be inclusive but does this extend to food and body image?

Think about conversations held in earshot of children about diets, exercise, keto, and being so bad last night! by eating pizza. Conversations like these can set up food aversions, body image issues and harm their relationship with food.

As educators and caregivers, you have a critical role to play in a childs sense of self, identity and attitudes to the world and their bodies. Are you mindful of how you speak about food and your body in front or in earshot of children?

Leading by example

Its very difficult to expect a child to switch to healthy food if they are mimicking unhealthy food behaviours and attitudes they see around them from educators and families, or if they are relying on food as a way to combat boredom, loneliness, depression, anxiety or other negative feelings.

Children are impressionable and observing adults dealing with negative body image or food choices can in turn cause them to reject their own bodies.

3 no-nos when it comes to feeding children

According to the American Association of Paediatrics, three practices have been shown to be associated with excess weight gain:

A clinical psychologists perspective

Wholesome Child consulted with Romy Kunitz, a clinical and developmental psychologist to get her perspective on the most healthy way to manage food and body conversations with young children. She shared three insightful tips:

A sore tummy is most often where a childs feelings are expressed. When this happens and it seems clear to you that the tummy ache isnt due to constipation/diarrhoea or something they have eaten, attempt to talk about what the sore tummy looks like or feels like.

Ask the child to draw what they are feeling, for example, and then make the association for them that perhaps they are feeling angry, sad or anxious. Helping children make the connection between their feelings and appetite is an enduring gift and preventing force feeding is very important in these circumstances too.

Some dos when it comes to encouraging healthy eating behaviours:

And some donts

Speak negatively about food in terms of high and low calories

Speak negatively about your own weight or body dissatisfaction in front of children

Let children eat out of boredom or when theyre thirsty (thirst often presents as hunger).

I explore this topic in depth in chapter 5 of my book, and offer further guidance for educators in how to talk about food in our Nourish program.

To learn more about the Nourish program, specially tailored for early childhood services, please see here.

Follow this link:
Sticks and stones can break their bonesbut words used about food and bodies can hurt too - The Sector

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February 27th, 2020 at 12:49 am

Posted in Diet and Exercise