“The body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It has been created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it.” -St. John Paul II, Theology of the Body 19:4
From healthy habits in early pregnancy to supporting your tween or teen as they grow into an adult body, the heart of what we do as parents and caregivers must be rooted in this truth from St. John Paul II. The human person is made to be both body and soul. Our bodies and souls are good because they are made in the likeness and image of God. How do we help our children grow to appreciate and care for their bodies, inside and out?
It’s important to remind your child regularly that he or she is good. You can do this in many small ways, from pointing out how amazing their bodies are when they say, “Watch me!” as they run, jump, swim, or play. When you talk about body parts with your child, or your child asks questions, it’s important to use the correct anatomical terms for them to avoid feelings of shame or embarrassment about their bodies and to understand that our bodies are made the way they are for a reason. As your child gets older, he or she will likely ask questions about his or her body or development that surprise you. Try to remain calm and answer these questions at an age-appropriate level, but using the proper anatomical terms. Giving honest answers to these kinds of questions and using the correct terminology helps lay a foundation of trust between you and your child. He or she will come to learn that you are always willing to tell them the truth and that topics related to the human body and development are nothing to be embarrassed about.
If your child is struggling with changes happening to their bodies, or you have concerns about healthy development, take time to review some of the resources below. Don’t be afraid to tell your child when you don’t know the answer to their question and “press pause” until you can find more information, then share what you find. Walking with your child as he or she is experiencing discomfort in his or her body can be difficult for a parent because we naturally want to find ways to eliminate the suffering of our children. However, true accompaniment means parents are willing to ask questions, listen without judgment, and help children find the information they need to better understand what they’re experiencing.
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