As I pulled up my pants this morning, that little voice in my head said “these pants fit very differently a year ago”. I quickly thought of a meditation that I did a couple of weeks ago where the teacher mentioned laughing at that negative little voice that we all have. So as I attempted to laugh, I started to think about how much my and my kids’ bodies have changed since March. Inches grown, weight gained, voices changed — my kids look very different than they did one year ago.
When we host our puberty workshops, we spend a good amount of time on the topic of body changes during puberty, the worry and discomfort many parents have around the fluctuations of weight or lack of height growth and just body changes in general. Add a pandemic into the mix and it becomes even more complicated as the research is telling us that our kids are moving a lot less with lack of recess and PE, organized sports and Zoom schooling. In our workshops, we help parents develop the muscle of talking to their kids about all the body changes that they are going through and will go through during adolescence.
But, while many of us we are developing the muscle of talking to kids about all the changes their bodies will go through, we are not always great at avoiding commenting on kids’ bodies. So, when it finally stops snowing around the country and we start to spend more time together again, sometimes seeing other people’s kids for the first time in over a year, let’s think about how and what we are saying to kids in their new bodies.
Here are a few ideas of what to do and maybe not do:
Try not to comment on other kids’ bodies.
- I know, it can be shocking when you see that child you have known since kindergarten, suddenly six inches taller, but very likely that child doesn’t want all the parents talking about it. Even if you think it’s a compliment, most kids don’t want to talk about how tall they are or how different they look.
Don’t call out the changes that clearly mark puberty.
- Let’s not recreate the scene in 16 Candles when the grandmother notices her granddaughter’s breasts. Please don’t comment on the changing voice or wider hips. It will land better if you send the parent a text later and appropriately remark on the changes.
We don’t need to talk about each other’s weight.
- Kids gain weight during puberty. That’s it. It is a normal part of the progression into adulthood and there is no reason to talk to a child about it unless you are that child’s pediatrician. We don’t need to add to any stress or insecurity already put on our kids by our society’s fixation on body weight, shape or size ideals.
Don’t make jokes about a child’s thinness, even if you’re trying to compliment.
- While so many of us have real fear when our kids grow out, it always surprises me how often kids are made fun of for being skinny. Kids who have growth spurts and get very skinny can be just as sensitive as the child that gains weight during puberty.
Talk about what the kids are doing, not what they look like.
- Kids do like to be asked about their interests. Are you still playing baseball, soccer, piano etc.? What music are you listening to? What are you watching on Netflix? Show that you remember and care about their interests.
Before you say something to a kid or about a kid in front of them, pause and think about why you are about to say something and does it actually need to be said. We are all eager to connect with children after not seeing them for so long and sometimes that eagerness can cause us to say things that may not land right. So many times when I take a moment to pull back, I realize my feelings are directly related to feelings about myself when I was their age. I can promise you, when I was a kid, I rarely took any of those adult comments as a compliment.
With my own children who have both grown a lot during the pandemic, I have been so grateful over the last few months to friends and neighbors, who might have been shocked at how different my kids look, but rather than calling attention to it in front of my children, have texted me instead. Let’s all give our kids that grace this Spring and Fall. They’ve got enough on their plates without us adding to it.