My oldest daughter turns 10 in a month. She is a beautiful girl who is turning into a lovely young lady. Lately, we've been having a few conversations about the changes her body will go through in the next few years. We had one the other day that I found especially revealing. It ended with her saying, "I don't want to grow up." Changing bodies can be a scary time for kids. Some of the stuff that's heading their way sounds yucky and different. With growing up come more hygiene responsibilities and a whole host of new emotions. It's easy for kids to be scared.
Yet, all of the changes are part of God's amazing plan for us. No matter what stage our bodies are in -- whether it's pre-puberty, post-pregnancy or menopausal -- they are performing how God created them to perform. Those changes may be scary, and they may make us feel uncomfortable in our own skin, but they are still beautiful.
I know that eight years after having my last baby, I still have several pounds I'd like to shed. Ever since I hit the grand old age of 35, my metabolism doesn't work like it once did. I have pounds that have moved around to new places and clothes in my closet that most likely will never fit again. I have to work harder to keep weight off. What I'm experiencing is no different than what my daughter is going through, facing the impending changes in her own body. And, there are days when I want to throw up my hands and announce "I don't want to grow up" too.
But the truth is that God made our bodies, and He thinks they're beautiful. Genesis 1:27 says "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." Memorize this verse with your kids this week. Knowing from an early age that we are made in the image of a perfect God can help take away some of the fear associated with a changing body.
We need to remind our kids that their bodies are working just as God designed. And what He designed is beautiful. We can and should start this process when our kids are young, so that when they face changes in the design of their bodies, they have a sense of self-worth that is rooted in the fact that they are beautiful in God's eyes -- not in whether they look like an air-brushed model on the cover of a magazine.
- When your kids are young, make it a point to focus on the non-physical aspects of who they are. It's OK for kids to like to look nice, but it's not OK for that to become a focal point of who they are. Try to compliment them on character qualities like being nice to others, truthfulness and unselfishness more than you focus on their physical attributes.
- For older kids, buy a few of those fashion magazines. Lay them out on the table and ask them to flip through the magazines. Ask them what they think of the actors and models featured in the magazines. Ask them if they think that's how those people really look. Use a photo of a familiar person or animal and change it in a photo editing program. Show your kids how easy it is to change the appearance of someone with photo editing software. Emphasize that what they see on a magazine cover is rarely what a person looks like in real life. Comparing ourselves to those unrealistic images isn't healthy because it's not an achievable look without the help of some judicious editing.
- When you begin to have discussions with your children about how their bodies are changing, keep at the forefront of their minds that all of this is normal and designed by God. As you begin your discussions, get a pot, some dirt and a flower seed. Together over the course of a few weeks, watch the flower grow. Talk about how the flower changes as it grows. Remind your child that without those changes, the plant would never become a beautiful flower. Tell your child they are just like that flower -- going through changes that will result in beauty.
- Watch your words. Be careful how you talk about your own body. If you have girls, you are instilling in them an example of how they should think about their bodies. If you have boys, you are setting up expectations for how they should view the female body. What you say about your own physical image counts when it comes to your kids. Act like your body is designed in the image of God, so your children will believe you when you encourage them in how they view their bodies.
The change from little girl or little boy to young woman or young man brings with it some excitement and some fear. Knowing that God made their bodies to work this way, makes the whole process a whole lot less scary.