Teach our Children Self-Love and not to Self-loathe

The Impact of a Wee little Fairy Tale…

In the days following the publication of my short story, ‘Welcome to BoPovia’, I ended up engaging in a myriad of fascinating and moving conversations with a variety of people. Parents, teachers, children and ladies who, like me, wished we had been given a story like that when we were younger (one of my main inspirations). The positive reactions to the story moved me to tears, with at least one parent telling me the huge impact it had on her daughter. In fact, we surprised her with her very own custom mermaid stating all the wonderful things about her. She was delighted and I was so proud. So proud that I had made a difference to one life, at least. As I sit here typing, I’m welling up, I’m just so touched by it all.

The Beautiful Steph and her personalised Mermaid ❤️

That Insidious Little B@s#**d, Diet Culture, Has Started Creeping into the Classroom…

I talk to children everyday who claim they are “fat” or on a “diet”. Children are constantly bombarded with imagery that, in their minds, tells them that they are not good enough. The kids are even taking ‘Victoria’s Secret’ pencil cases to school. Inappropriate much? Our kids are comparing themselves to fully grown UNDERWEAR models. They are not realising that they are not fully developed, that they might be going through confusing changes, mentally, physiologically and emotionally. I am in a constant state of high alert around my students and food. I will not allow them to use judgemental words about food or themselves, but I’ll come to that later.

I’m not a mother but I am a caregiver for hundreds of girls daily. I have become a bit of an unofficial ‘go-to’ when someone at school is worried about the language students are using or when they see possible triggering actions, like refusing sweets. I don’t know about you, but when either your teacher brought in sweets or allowed a class member to do it for their birthday, that was like THE. BEST. DAY. EVER. We’d all lose our shit and go to scoff town on those bad boys. It is becoming more commonplace now for kids to refuse these delicious treats. Obviously there are reasons such as diabetes (I always used to get one of my tutees with diabetes a keyring or something cute so she had a choice), religion, vegetarianism / veganism or just general taste, but I’m not convinced they are the only reasons. I have had students refuse on the grounds that they are on a “diet.” I have heard BEAUTIFUL girls talk about the surgery they plan on having once they are old enough. One girl had a shopping list; lips, liposuction, cheek fillers, butt surgery and a nose job. I have no issues with people who have surgery but should a 16 year old even be considering it?….And don’t get me started on Instagram and Snapchat filters!! I’ve said it before but check out Rankin’s ‘Selfie Harm’ series and see how much young girls want to alter themselves to be insta-ready. I LOVE Instagram, so you’re probably thinking, “HYPOCRITE!!!” Well, to a certain extent you’re right, but I will post less than perfect pictures of myself (and extremely perfect pictures of my cats…crazy cat lady!). Also, I love a snap chat filter that is funny, but then I also see the ones that make your skin perfect, eyes larger, face more sculpted and I can’t help but feel that for kids to then look in the mirror, where there is no filter, there is big disappointment. I await the day for some arsehole to make a filtered mirror so that everyone can be the ‘fairest of them all’.

Anyway I digress (surprise, surprise).

Look at the difference between me in the top left and all the filtered pics.

Face Palm NHS..

Before we left school for the summer one of my lovely colleagues who supports my work, came to me with a little tid-bit of information which blew my mind. I was horrified to find out that some children are weighed at the start and end of their primary school years. Now for some people, children and parents, this might seem like an innocuous and uneventful thing to happen. However, I was finding out from a lot of parents I spoke to that their children were reacting to the results of these  ‘weigh-ins’ by wanting to lose weight, whether they needed to or not. The letters that have been shared with me offer parents the opportunity to get the results explained via a BMI checker. I cannot stress enough to you, my darlings, how much BMI has to play in fat-phobic views, disordered eating and ill advice from ‘health professionals’ (broken toe? Lose weight. Warts? Best lose some weight). Despite the medical community acknowledging that it is a crude method,  they still use this piece of inaccurate shite to repeatedly beat us over the head. Not to mention that children grow at different rates. The amount of mums sending me pictures of their “obese” children is saddening. They were not obese, they were just kids. Soft, pooky, long, short, tall, chunky, muscular, slender etc. The damage that can be done by these actions can be devastating to a young child. We are not born with body issues and yet we feel the need to participate in activities that seem destined to make us or our children feel crap. ‘Weighing’ in school is in itself just awful. Do any of you remember lessons at primary school where you were weighed? Measured? Maybe not, but I do. I was always on the top end of the chart for the class. That has stayed with me for decades. Along with fitness tests in PE. I was destined to have a shit relationship with my body because at such a young age it was already ingrained in me that I was “big for my age.” A lot of my friends whose children were weighed didn’t know you could opt out, weren’t given the opportunity or were not even told it was going to happen. The letter itself seems to change from authority to authority. Some parents even said the school had complained their child was too tall…. Yeah can you just lop an inch or two off of Boris, he’s just too large. I don’t mean to sound preachy but if you do participate, be careful how you disseminate that information with your kids. Do they actually need to know? You know your kids better than anyone, you know what they like, what exercise they get and what they eat. If some changes need to be made, because YOU feel it needs to happen, then try not to be judgemental, introduce fun activities and encourage curiosity around food. Also, ask yourself, are you projecting your own body image concerns if you overreact to an inaccurate, measuring system?
How I felt as THAT little kid. The “biggest in the class.”

Weight Watchers… Or WW… WHATEVER… We’re Watching YOU!

So, the thinly veiled and reconditioned DIET club WW (Weight Watchers) has pulled yet another doozy…. Releasing an app especially aimed at children from 8 years upwards called ‘Kurbo’. Encouraging kids to do before and after pictures, track food and their activity. This app even traffic lights their food choices. WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. FUCK!??!? This is a disaster waiting to happen for any kid. Firstly comparison photos – now this is where I might alienate some of you who have lost weight – the problem with posting before and after shots means you are sending out the message that one body type is better than the other. When some of us have the body type you have moved away from, it isn’t very positive for us to hear phrases like “Fat”, or “Gross” or worse, “I can’t believe that was me, I was so huge!”

However, sharing pics of you looking cute in your new found happiness is so amazingly cool. Just try not to refer to your former self in negative ways, because she deserves love and respect too, no matter what her size.

So, getting back to the blog… Imagine being an 8 or 10 year old kid doing this and seeing others doing this on the ridiculous WW app. We are teaching our children to deprive themselves, to track their activities, make comparisons and to enter the world of diet culture. I’m sure those of you who have been on diets most of your life have learnt a series of rules and regulations that control any food decisions you make. How many of you actually wish you could erase all that? Take it from someone who has been on every diet imaginable since the age of 10, and STILL isn’t skinny. I don’t have children of my own and you might think I’m talking out of turn BUT where did it get ME? A lifetime of wishing I was someone else. Too frightened as a teenager to believe someone liked me, too scared to participate in PE (and shamed when I did), I held myself back so much because I felt so self-conscious.

We DO NOT want our kids growing up thinking their size is all that matters. Engage them in activities where they learn all the qualities that make them so much more than a number on a scale or a picture on Instagram. Tell them all the things they are outside of the aesthetic – funny, smart, amazing footballer, creative, imaginative, polite, friendly, helpful, a good swimmer, etc. You get my gist. I made some of my year 11 tutees write positive qualities down for each other and then made them into little hearts for them to keep. It blew their minds. There were even tears. 🥰 You can do similar exercises with the kids, get them to illustrate all the brilliant things that make them who they are.

I’m only now learning in my 40s that I am worth so much more than the dress size I am, the diet I am on and what food I eat. I will be refusing to engage in good / bad food debates. If you tell me a food is “naughty” or that you or I am about to eat something “naughty”… You are getting a telling off. We need to stop demonising food. We need to gently educate and %encourage, not diet and discipline.

Thank you once again for your unwavering support and encouragement. You guys rock my world.

By the way did I tell you…? Those kids are amazing little miracles and you’ve done a fantastic job. ❤️

 

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