No, seriously. Boy belly, girl belly, adult belly, child belly, elderly belly, surgery scar belly, flat belly, pudgy belly, round belly, pregnant belly, infant belly. For some reason, it seems the only mass-accepted belly is a baby belly, and even THOSE get ridiculed. How does one ridicule a baby belly?
We all hear it, all the time. Tabloids comparing celeb bellies, diet pill ads selling belly shrinking "miracle" cures, toning belts/wraps/gimmicks, from ourselves when we're trying on clothes, from the girl 3 towels over at the beach, even from our children! Where does it end? This post is going to be a little different from my previous ones, but just as important.
It breaks my heart that children, some even prepubescent, are being judged about a should-be shameless body part. There is no reason a child should fear being made fun of or whispered about when he goes swimming, when she changes in the locker room, when running with their friends. Children are so impressionable, these body-image onslaughts get sucked right into their brains and slowly eat away at their self-esteem like a parasite.
Even worse than the judgement, is that it doesn't just come from peers, but even from adult family members.
While some kids might not be bothered by remarks about their body, many kids are affected. When TV, magazines, music and billboards are all common place in society and all have been known to push certain standards, children are already exposed to body propaganda. Then, to hear about their weight at home, at school, or visiting a family member just adds fuel to the fire. Comments that may seem benign can fester in a persons head and heart, and it can be devastating for a child whose body is ever changing and whose hormones may already be fueling a fire of confusion and doubt.
If you are a parent, please think back to when you were a kid. Think back to how comments, both from peers and adults, influenced you. Put yourself in the shoes of yourself at the age of your children. Teach your children that worth is not defined by how others treat you, by snide comments, or your body. Teach them to be proud of themselves, inside and out. Remember to watch your words, as yours may be the most crucial.
Aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents friends, teachers, your words matter, too. A child may look up to you, may look to you for guidance and wisdom. You may be a bigger influence than you think. Your words can hurt, whether they are about the child, about yourself, or about someone else. Children learn from their surroundings, why not surround them with positivity? Why not influence them for the better?
There is a difference between being concerned about someone's health, and being a sanctimonious, hurtful dick. If you have a genuine health concern, there are tactful ways to bring it up. Or, just don't. If there is a legitimate concern, it's likely that a health care professional has already discussed it, and it's not your place. If it's your child, obviously, you are an exception, but there are still kind ways to go about a discussion about health. If your child's pediatrician discusses a concern, further discuss it in private to get a more in depth explanation, suggestions on how to talk to the child about it, and to avoid alienating the child. Take steps as a family, don't make any changes seem like a punishment.
We all have bellies. Big deal if they're different. Scars, moles, marks are part of who we are. Belly buttons, in, out, or flat, are proof that we were connected to someone else at one point. Rolls can melt away, weight can be gained if needed. Tan lines and bruises are temporary, but words leave a lasting impression, on adults and on children.