When a classmate insults your child, what should you say?
Question: During a play date, my friend’s seven-year-old daughter announced: “I’m fat! Look at my tummy! Why does it stick out?”
We were all horrified, especially because she is tiny—maybe even underweight. I think she was just saying it to see our reaction. What should our reaction have been?
Answer: Here is a great mantra to remember when children say something concerning:
Stay calm. Be curious.
Stay calm because sometimes the adult’s reaction is much, much worse than the problem, and it gives the child too much attention for something that might not need attention. Beyond that, responding in horror to issues of body size or looks—either through gasps or words—communicates to the child that you believe being “fat” (or “ugly” or whatever the word might be) is something to be terribly upset by—and this can cause a cascade of problems down the line.
What if the child later struggles with weight?...
We all hope that our children confide in us. But sometimes, they might feel afraid to tell us what is really going on.
Or, they might feel embarrassed.
Here's a great way to keep the lines of communication open.
Let your kids pick out a journal they love. Tell them that if they ever feel afraid to tell you something, they can write it in the journal and leave it under your pillow.
Promise them that you will do your best to write your response on the next page of the journal and leave it under your child's pillow.
Of course, there may be times when your children disclose something that requires a one-on-one, in-person conversation.
But often, you can save your children a little embarrassment or anxiety by simply letting the conversations occur in a journal. It will help your children open up and continue to confide in you as their lives become more and more complex.
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