This pandemic has gifted each of us our own cornucopia of physical and mental garbage: anxiety, isolation, depression, inertia, and insomnia, to name a few. For some, it also led to the more frequent consumption of less healthy (read: comfort) foods. And that indulgence (which, frankly, we deserve) has led to the somewhat inevitable jokes about “the COVID 19” or the “quarantine 15” — the situational weight-gain cousin of the more traditional “freshman 15.”
No matter what else is happening in the world — and boy is there a lot happening — we can’t seem to stop talking about how much weight we’re all gaining right now. The thing is, we need to stop, especially when our kids are in earshot. Hayley Juhl offers this reminder to us in the Montreal Gazette:
No matter how careful we are to tell them they’re exactly as they should be, they hear us bemoaning the fit of our favourite pair of jeans. They’re reading over our shoulders when we laugh-cry over the 100th “Quarantine 15” fat joke to come across our social media feed. Except it isn’t funny. Weight jokes are never funny, and especially not now, when the children are listening.
Children of all ages, genders and sizes are exposed to a manufactured vision of sleek legs and toned bellies at the same time their own bodies are changing rapidly. Teenagers getting more screen time than usual are especially likely to come across pandemic fat-busting diets, dangerous “detoxes” to achieve the perfect summer body and memes that show Barbie next to her round quarantine cousin, Carbie. They appear to validate the myth that fat is funny. It’s the low-hanging fruit of the comedy world.
Recent history — most notably, this shit show of a year — has brought out the worst in many of us. Between politics and the pandemic, we’re down on each other, and we’re down on ourselves. But our kids have been watching us closely all along, in part because they’re with us now more than ever, but also because it’s such a surreal time. They’re going to take their cues from us on how to manage stress, how to speak about others, and how to take care of ourselves.
If we’re complaining about the weight we’ve gained or the diets we need to start on Monday — even in a way that attempts to make light of it — what messages are we sending to kids, who are already bombarded with the idea that the perfectly fit body is the only worthy body?
Our kids need to hear us talk less about exercising to “burn off all that pie” and more about exercising to “make our bodies stronger.” If you need an assist to get better at promoting body-positivity with your kids, these posts should get you started:
- How to Raise a Body-Positive Kid
- Teach Girls to Think About What Their Bodies Do Instead of How They Look
- What Parents Should Know About Boys and Eating Disorders
- How to Address Your Tween Daughter’s Body Hair Concerns
- How to Talk to Teens About Weight Loss
But really, it boils down to this: Don’t make fat jokes in front of your kids. Don’t tease your partner about his new pandemic love handles or how even your “fat pants” are getting snug. Don’t even make fun of overweight politicians, as tempting as it may be. And if you hear others doing this stuff in front of your kids, call it out.
If making fun of someone else’s weight is fair game right now, that sends the message that body size or shape is a thing to be judged and mocked. And that’s a message we want to actively avoid with our kids — now and always.