5 Ways to Talk to Your Parents About Body Positivity
By Kim Drastal--Parents, the people who nag us to clean our rooms—but also the people who hold us when we cry. They may frustrate or anger us, but in the end, we love them and they love us. Parents are vital in creating your home and living space, and in determining whether or not it’s a body-positive space.
If your parents still have a ways to go in terms of body positivity, here are five ways you can open an important conversation:
1. Be honest.
I can tell you from personal experience that even though these are the people who have raised you from infancy to adulthood, your parents cannot read your mind. In the past, I have been guilty of getting frustrated with my parents for comments they make or actions they take that I find triggering, and then getting frustrated at them for not knowing that I’m frustrated.
That, as you can imagine, is not even slightly productive. So, when approaching your body positivity discussion with parents, try your best to be as open and honest as possible. I know how hard it can be to advocate for yourself or to talk about your feelings, but the more information you give them, the more they can try to improve or help.
Also, try not to start the conversation by throwing accusations out. This conversation is focused on you and your feelings; blaming your parents for doing the “wrong things” will not bring about a solution but it may create tension.
2. Try your best to be understanding.
As children, we may believe that our parents are superheroes who can do no wrong and will make everything right. But like everyone else in the world, your parents are not perfect. They weren’t given a rule book on how to be good parents, so, as you mature, they are constantly learning how to interact with you. That being said, sometimes they don’t realize when they mess up.
While they may think that commenting on your weight is motivational, you may find their comment extremely triggering. So try to put yourself in their shoes before having the conversation. Take into account their feelings about their own bodies, their relationships with their parents and their life experiences.
When you begin to talk to your parents about body image, listen to what they have to say. This should be a two-way conversation, one in which you help them to understand your feelings, but you also empathize with their feelings. Your parents love you unconditionally; they are not trying to hurt you intentionally. Regardless of what is said in your conversation about body positivity, keep this in mind.
3. Give them specific pointers.
Before talking to your parents, try your best to record some situations in which their actions or words negatively affected your body image. This list does not have to be extensive; it should focus on the things that are the most triggering for you. After compiling the list, start to brainstorm solutions. For example, if one of your parents keeps magazines that encourage dieting or weight loss on your coffee table, and this really upsets you, ask if instead they can read a magazine that focuses more on healthy cooking. This takes a lot of stress off of your parents, who might not know what to do as an alternative.
4. Reminders are key.
Everyone forgets things, even things that we should remember, like where we put those keys. So even after your talk about body positivity, they may accidently make a triggering joke or comment. This isn’t because they weren’t listening; it is more likely that they simply weren’t thinking. So instead of giving them the silent treatment, speak up. Remind them about the things that you guys talked about regarding body image. It can take a little while for people to modify their behaviors. Don’t let all of the small mistakes build up—you might just end up exploding at them. Try to stay calm and keep the conversation going.
5. And in the end comes acceptance…
If your parents make a conscious effort to improve, that is great. Ultimately, some people cannot be changed. Sometimes, our parents may have body image issues as well, and as much as we want to change that, we can’t. Try to seek out other body-positive role models such as an aunt, a cousin or a friend. Allow yourself to be upset if your parents do something that negatively affects your body image, but then remind yourself that you are still body positive, and that cannot be taken away from you.
I can tell you from first-hand experience that after having a conversation with my parents about body image, they were extremely understanding and helpful. They made conscious efforts to promote body positivity and to follow some of the “guidelines” I gave them.
I spent too much time being frustrated with the two most important people in my life, rather than starting the conversation on body positivity. I found that opening up to parents can be therapeutic for both parties.
Body positivity is now a continuous point of conversation in our house and that has been one of the greatest things for my recovery. The conversation may be tough to begin, but it is worth it!