As I was getting ready to write my blog this week I was trying to think back to a time when I may have used these words, or have heard someone use these words with a child in a classroom. I could not think of one time. That is not to say that those words were never spoken, but to be honest I was maybe not really listening. I have heard teachers respond in negative ways to children when they say things like “you can’t come to my birthday”, or “you are not my friend”.
Years ago, I was out shopping with my two daughters. My oldest daughter had to be about five at the time and my youngest about two. We were waiting in line at the grocery store when my oldest daughter asked me if the lady in front of us was pregnant. I immediately felt embarrassed and I know that the lady in front of us heard her because she looked a little sad when my daughter said it. What was my reaction? I just said “no” and tried to divert her attention. Now this is something that I am sure has happened more than one and with many different situations. Honestly at the time I was a young parent who had very little experience with these situations, much less had experience with my own parents talking to me about differences with people.
Looking back at this now, and knowing what I know now, I think I would have handled things differently. I would have taken more time to explain to my daughter that she was not pregnant, but just had a bigger body size. I would have explained that all people are different and that is okay. Maybe we would have look at some pictures of different body sizes or looked-for people with different body shapes/sizes as we were shopping. When I think back to how I handled this with my daughter she may have thought that being bigger or fat was a terrible thing. She may also have felt that she did something wrong (let’s face it children say these things all the time), and she may have even felt shame.
If this had happened in a class that I taught I would find some pictures with people who have different body shapes/sizes. I would also try to find books to have on the bookshelf or to read to the children. We could also compare our own bodies and how we are different.
I feel that children get so many messages about body size and shape within the media. I feel that this is having a massive impact on how children feel about themselves. We can make a difference and children can feel better about themselves and others. I think that it is more important for children to learn about being healthy and having healthy habits, then focusing on what size a person is. As we start to have more conversations with children it will help children see differences in a new light.