How you speak to your kids matters a great deal

Did you know that education first begins in the home?

Yes, we have many fine schools with trained teachers, but if parents do not get involved throughout the child’s early formative years, there is little for teachers to build upon. Begin reading books to your little ones, and have them read back to you. Look for ways of using play to introduce problem solving into their lives, and to bond with them. Start listening to them when they are young and continue as they grow into adults. Let them know you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. Be interested in their schoolwork, and homework, and don’t ever dismiss their problems as minor and insignificant.

To a child every problem can be a major issue.

Do you ever pick up a magazine, or listen to the news, where the story tells of another person experiencing an eating disorder? Do you know how many thousands of young girls especially are having a fight for their life as daily they vomit back the food so necessary to keep them alive? Why on earth would any normal young person ever want to become so thin their bones show though their skin all over their body, hair falls out, menstrual periods cease, and their mouth and throat is burnt from continuous exposure to stomach acid?

We are certainly not experts in this field, but would like to share just one experience that a client’s adult child has shared as a warning to others about the power of words, and how some simple words changed her life for ever..

Let’s give this girl the name of ‘Mary’ so as to preserve the family’s anonymity. When Mary was in the early years of high school, she was a normal, talkative, live-life-to-the-full 14-year-old. She came from a relatively normal home, where mum stayed home to raise the four children, three of whom were younger than Mary. Dad worked long hours to care for his family financially.

Apart from the normal childhood problems experienced by all families, this was very much an average family, where the biggest problem each week was whether to eat out on Friday night at KFC or McDonald’s!

At least that was until a new girl started in Mary’s class at school. This new girl, who we’ll call ‘Clare’, was very insecure, and lacking friends in a new school felt very threatened by vivacious Mary. Sadly, she thought the easiest way to get friends was to steal them from someone else – like Mary. And so began a vicious teenage campaign by Clare to put down and make fun of Mary at any and every opportunity, thinking she would gain friend’s at Mary’s expense.

This attack lasted the better part of the school term, and began to wear Mary down physically and emotionally. Mary though was determined to remain nice about it in the hope that her good nature could turn Clare around.

Or at least that was until one lunch break when Mary was gathered with her friends around the school canteen. Her friends were eating a variety of foods, while Mary decided to spoil herself with a less-than-healthier meal option that smelled, oh so good. Mary was halfway through the meal when Clare walked around the corner and spied her munching into this lunchtime feast. With all her friends within earshot, and waiting deliberately for Mary to have a mouthful of food, Clare began a stinging verbal attack on Mary, culminating in calling her a ‘fat cow!”

Mary recalls that she didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t speak with the food in her mouth, and she felt like every eye in the schoolyard was upon her. Although through her tears she could not see everyone’s face, she imagined every one of her friends laughing with Clare at ‘Fat Mary!’

Mary changed that day.

She can’t recall exactly what happened, but through her tears she said she knew something changed inside of her.

Her parents then took over telling the story for a while; saying that the girl who came home from school that day was different. They don’t know exactly how either, and it took several months to see the physical changes. What they do remember is the quietness that settled over the family as their usual bubbly teenager changed. Her mum said that it was like when there is a death in the family: you know it’s there, but no one wants to talk about it.

Eventually they did talk. They had too. More and more, Mary found excuses to either not join the family for meals, or to leave suddenly after. Everything about Mary began changing. Her moods became very difficult, her friends’ stopped coming around, her conversations on the phone became hushed and guarded, and her clothes looked too big for her – they seemed to hang off her body! All the excuses Mary gave of wanting to fit in with the latest fashion trends soon wore very thin.

Mary’s mum was the first to seriously question this change of weight. She knew Mary’s clothes size very well, and when the weekly wash turned up smaller size underwear and tops, she knew she had to tell her husband. Together, they sought professional help before approaching Mary, and when they were as prepared as they could be, they arranged for family to care for their other three children, while they spoke openly to Mary.

As expected, initially she denied having an eating disorder, but as the evening wore on, and everyone cried over and over, Mary began to tell her story when finally presented with all the evidence. Finally they were able to hug, and cry, and kiss, and cry again, and then determine together to work through the problem.

Thankfully for Mary, she was part of a loving family that supported her through the recovery process. Today, if you looked at Mary you would think her to be a slim but normal 19-year-old, without a care in life. Is she healed though from those vicious words spoken so long ago?

Let me answer in Mary’s words, No – but I am getting there. And every day, I get a little stronger than I was yesterday.” Mary looked at her parents as she recounted this story. She thanked them for being there for her throughout this ordeal, and never putting her down or saying anything to hurt her. Their words of encouragement helped to bring her through. 

Every word counts. Whether spoken as a parent, a brother or sister, or a friend. We take them in and process them through whatever emotional state we are in at the time, and those words have the power to change lives – for good or bad.

Remember that today, and tomorrow, and for the rest of your lives. Your words, and the words of others can either build a person up, or tear them down and destroy them.

Please use your words very carefully, and teach your children to do likewise.

And if you or anyone you know, needs help with an eating disorder, please talk to a professional as soon as possible.

Living each adventure, 
Christine and Trevor

Empowering people to live a healthy, active, authentic and fulfilling life.
Adelaide, South Australia.
#Lifestyle  #BrandAmbassadors

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DISCLAIMER: This article is written for informational purposes only and is based on Christine and Trevor’s own life experiences. No food featured on this site should ever be consumed or handled if known or suspected allergies exist. Nothing featured here should be taken as medical, professional or legal advice. It is always recommended that you consult the appropriate professional before changing any routine or adopting any new procedure.

How you speak to your kids matters a great deal
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