A child’s concern about their appearance or weight often begins in elementary school. In a culture obsessed with looks and comparison, parents can be a powerful, grounding influence in their child’s life. Justin and Lindsey Holcomb describe the fundamental truth from scripture to teach kids about their bodies. And, they share practical implications of viewing others as people made in God’s image.
your son’s more than handsome. He does need to hear that he’s handsome. Mom and dad need to tell him. But think of all of the other ways you’re so creative, you’re so empathetic that you’re so thoughtful, like things that they actually do. Let’s pick some way better adjectives. Welcome to the focus on the family broadcast helping families thrive john you know, Children today, they’re just deluged with criticism. I think you look at the way that in elementary school, even how kids start ridiculing each other, teasing each other, etcetera. And some of that I think is put under the old bucket of just that’s the way it is. That’s how kids treat each other. But we have to remember, it doesn’t end anymore when school ends because of social media that ridicule that embarrassment just keeps coming. If you’re one of those kids that maybe doesn’t have what it takes at that age, whatever that might be. Remember for me in junior high, I remember I just had freckles on the back of my legs and going to swim class was so embarrassing to me because everybody would point it out, look at his freckles. I don’t know why that should be a problem. But I think being irish that’s kind of normal. But those are the kinds of things that kids need to be equipped to deal with today and we’re going to talk about how to help your Children be better equipped to know that they’re made in the image of God. Yeah. And Justin and Lindsay, Holcomb will offer some great insights for parents. Justin is a minister and professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and Lindsay is an advocate for survivors of abuse. She works in a non profit development role and co founded rest, which stands for real escape from the sex trade. Justin and Lindsay have two daughters and together they’ve authored this wonderful Children’s book that we’ll be talking a little bit about today called God made me in his image helping Children appreciate their bodies. And you can find out more at our website, the link is in the show notes or give us a call 800 the letter a and the word family Justin and Lindsay welcome back to focus on the family. Good to have you, thank you, thank you for the invitation back is always good to be here with you. All right, so like I set the program up there a moment ago, I think with junior high and high school particularly we’re kind of acclimated to the fact that can be, this can be tough years with a lot of ridicule about your body type and body image issues. Your point is it’s happening at younger and younger ages. So describe how this is becoming more of an issue for Children in elementary school. Well first I love the fact that you started out with A boy story because most people think this is, you know, a girl’s issue type of things. That’s the thing. All people could be telling stories like that because we all have that experience, all of us do and it does start at a very early age. So the number one concern for 6-8 year olds is body image. At least half of Children little. So what’s contributing to that? Why are Children now more aware of their body image than 20 years ago? Absolutely. That’s a great question. Um, one of the things that we have found in the research and just conversations we’ve had with parents is a lot of it goes back to their moms how the mothers talk about their own body image and their own concerns and Children are so they are just observed. The Children are Observing everything that their parents say and they’re soaking it all in like sponges. So if they hear their mom talking about certain insecurities when it comes to their body, then it makes them question. I wonder what’s wrong with me. Even at a young age of Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd grade. Um, some of the research is showing that girls and boys are very concerned about their body image. It can happen so early, approximately 80% of all 10 year old girls have died at least once. That’s, that’s amazing. And 10 years of age, that’s fourth grade. That’s heartbreaking. It really is sad and that’s perhaps the most shocking thing is, you know, we used to talk about airbrushing the models, the whole thing like that, but now that boys and girls in elementary school are experiencing these kinds of comparisons, you actually noticed it in your two girls, right, lindsey, I mean you have younger kids 11 and 13 and they were, how did they respond to this? And did you wake up at one point and we’ve got to stop saying this or that or did you self correct or hear yourself saying some things that caught your attention? That’s a good question. Well actually they would come home from school kind of telling us, you know, because they are more petite on the petite side, just from just short short, Justin’s mom is short, is this short? My mom is short, I am on the shorter side. And so they would come home and share with us at dinner, you know, so and so called me short and this would be in fifth grade and it just would be ongoing. And so we would just enter into that conversation with them of just how does that make you feel kind of, where do you think that’s coming from? How can we frame your shift your thinking about how you’re made in the image of God and how does that counteract what this child saying to you? But also they would have things said to them about it. Beautiful eyebrows. They have the italian gene from my lovely husband, powerful power eyebrows and kids would make fun of that. And so I think what we have found is any part of a child’s body is up for scrutiny. And so how can we as parents, how can we come alongside them and give them tools to think through these harmful, hurtful things that they’re here because they’re going to hear things about their body, They’re going to hear things about other people um whether it’s through like Justin listed tv music, social media, but parents, we need to be on the, on the front end of this and giving them context, how to think through this as a christian. Let me ask you um, and get into it to equip the parents Really, what’s the fundamental truth from scripture to teach kids about their body image? How do we get that out of scripture? God made you in his image and humans made in the image of God. There’s nothing in all creation that reflects God better than a human who is in the image of God and there’s inherent worth in that God made you on purpose the way you are and he wants you in his world. Like that’s a message that undermines that silly cultural, you’re not measuring up your creator is bestowing to you your identity, right? And that’s a big bucket. I mean when you get down to the expression of that inhumanity, You have tall people, short people, big people, small people, everything. We’re talking about freckles, you know, so what does that mean? You know, really applicable to be made in God’s image. What are the nitty gritty nuts and bolts of that? Well you’re, you’re gifting how your gift. God. God said in genesis. God said, here’s a garden and I want you to cultivate this garden. There’s things for you to do multiply and have Dominion. And and then and that’s the gift. And and the idea of being the image of God. I mean the idea comes from the ancient near east cause I am a seminary professor and this made it into this book because you got to got to teach the kids because it’s all based on the doctrine of creation, there was nothing and God wanted something to exist and he really wanted humans to exist because when he talks about creating things on day 1234 is good, get the humans, it’s good, good tove tove and hebrew. And what what happened is moses writing genesis looked around and saw all these kings who would erect statues about himself to honor themselves and set up their statues all around their kingdom. So moses inspired by God says that’s what image of God looks like God is setting up images of himself all around because God wants more images to fill the earth and glorify him and and this is a picture that this is God’s world and so here’s a garden cultivated and so what it means is that the multiethnic multitude that you see in daniel and in revelation five about people from different tongues, languages, tribes and nations glorifying God, that’s the fulfillment of the original call from being the image of God. That’s helpful to see because then Children start seeing all the diversity and difference and go wait a second, taller, shorter, slender, larger, different colored skin freckles all over. And I guess that’s the human thing though we get locked into this is the image of God rather than the variety of God’s image in people. Right? Whether, I mean think about it skin color, it’s such a ridiculous thing, meaning why does that define so much of our, you know, interaction between races etcetera? Because it’s just pigmentation right? In every culture, every culture has something about a sliding scale on how light or dark one skin is. You know, every so we’ve we’ve been in africa a few times and and the way people would talk about darker colored skin versus lighter colored black skin is So every culture has that do you think that’s rooted in our sin nature, that the that we pounce on differences rather than embrace differences that are irrelevant really to our humanity. So yeah, when you have, when you have the good creation set up and you have sin invading and vandalizing the piece of the garden, what you end up seeing is is people become inward turned inward focused. We were created to worship God and to love our neighbor and as soon as sin enters the world, you have people doing bad worship, you know, can enable and then you have exploiting of other people. So what I think happens is that we have this curved inward nature where we focus on ourselves and there’s actually a sociological principle called the homogeneous unit principle. All that means is people like to be around people who are like them and you start seeing that in churches and cultures and neighborhoods, but that is that’s a whittling down of the wonderful scope of possibilities of reflections of the image of God to, well, people who are 48 white men are the people who I’m most comfortable with. And and so I think that’s part of the problem is that sin ends up um getting our focus back on ourselves and not the original plan that God had for his good creation. Yeah, it’s really good. Let’s stick with culture for just a minute. How has our culture made it easier for kids to let’s talk about exclude one another. How does the culture feed into that when you have a celebrity culture? Let’s right. Where which were in the throes of in and I’m shaped by it too. That’s the thing. It’s not just the Children, but I start paying attention to who the famous people are and what they look like. I have that voice in my head that says, well, you’re not. So and so you don’t you don’t you don’t you don’t step up to that standard. So when you have a celebrity culture that celebrates peripheral secondary things that are not really that important, uh, wealth, uh airbrush good looks, uh, and letting people get shape without calling that out. That’s the thing that the most powerful thing a parent can do, I think is stop the movie and go, hold on, let’s talk about this. Let’s, let’s let’s pull the rug out from underneath the lie of what our culture is telling you about your worth. That’s the opposite. You’re not worthy because you did this look like this. Said this, didn’t say this. You’re worthy because of who you are and who God made you to be. And so I think finding those moments to point out the lie that’s whispering in our Children’s ears and then, which is what Lindsay, so good is pointing out where we’re vulnerable. She’ll, she’ll frequently remind the girls, Hey, no, we weren’t always successful. This, this took decades to get to in the sense of being comfortable with our own vulnerability and and talking about putting, showing them what it looks like to um say the truth about ourselves, where we feel insecure we to each other into the girl, you’re thinking biblically and critically about what’s going on in the culture and what our Children are experiencing regarding body image, that’s our topic today, on focus on the family with Justin and Lindsay Holcomb, they’ve written a Children’s book that is a really great primary that it’ll open up some doors of conversation for you and your child is called God made me in his image helping Children appreciate their bodies and we’d love to send a copy of that to you. Just get in touch with us. Our number is 800 the letter A in the word family and the link is in the show notes, Lindsay, let me pick up on that because it’s touching this issue of empathy and in preparation for the show, I was doing some research and I think it was the University of Michigan analyzed um from 2010 did some research and analyze the results. They found a 40% decline in college students ability to empathize. And they were saying it was directly related to technology that we we’ve kind of become course because because of social media, we’re just constantly ridiculing each other and it just kind of deadened that ability to have empathy for others. That’s a very concerning the issue isn’t that is it’s a sad, sad number. But that does make sense because the more time you’re on your screen, whether that’s texting or on social media, the less you are engaging just in conversation and learning how to have those social skills. Another thing that parents can equip their Children with how do you even engage technology in a way that you can be empathetic and encouraging but going back to those basic skills of how to have conversations but like I go back to kids are watching, I was even shocked when I see some of my adult friends, the things that they will post on facebook and they feel so brazen to post a comment that is hurtful that whether it’s to like a certain people group or political group and I’m like goodness you would never say this to someone’s face. But the kids are watching that they’re reading it. They’re hearing about it and going back to parents setting good examples, not criticizing other people or bodies. If we go back to the body example if Children see their parents judging other people based on appearance or thoughts or you know, lifestyle then they are going to pick up on those things as well. How can we as parents teach our Children to think critically but also compassionately as christians as Children of God give us an exam that really helps because sometimes we’re kind of deaf and blind to this too because we’re just moving through the day as parents. We may not even know how we are expressing that. Let’s go back. I want adjectives is what gets my attention because this has been something that has annoyed me is watching online but also just watching in conversations. I started noticing in a span of a week as I’m scrolling through, you know social media comments about boys and girls, Oh this is my daughter, she’s so beautiful, my son is so handsome, he’s a stud, lady killer. I mean just things I’m thinking, what are you saying? First of all you look ridiculous about saying this just about your kid. But the fact that that’s what their Children are seeing, that’s what’s being prioritized. And I just asked everyone is like, can we please find different adjectives please? Because my daughter might one of the most powerful things I can do for my daughters in a culture that’s gonna make them feel um ugly, short, big eyebrows, whatever. I mean the culture and their friends are going to bestow to them an identity. One of the most powerful things as dad with my dad voices, look at them and say you’re beautiful. They need to have a category of a dad saying that to him. But all I’m saying to my daughters is you’re beautiful, I’m making that they’re worth. The way they, the way they get my attention is by being beautiful. And so I started at an early age going through and I was like, and this is from Lindsay going, that’s great, but they’re also beautiful, sweet, smart and strong. So you’re, you’re so strong, you’re so trying to find other ways. You’re adventurous. You’re courageous. Your sons more than handsome, he does need to hear that he’s handsome. Mom and dad need to tell him, but think of all of the other ways you’re so creative, you’re so empathetic that you’re so thoughtful, like things that they actually do, Let’s pick some way better adjectives and maybe the reason that we’re picking the adjectives that we’re picking is because maybe maybe I’m secure about how I look. You know, maybe I don’t like my receding hairline and my big eyebrows or my gray beard, Like maybe maybe that’s infiltrating. Maybe some self awareness on the parent’s, I’d be really helpful for their parents for their kids. There was one story that lindsey and I experienced of it was during the summer and a mom and dad with our kids were out at the pool and the husband complimented his wife and said, oh, it’s our time, it’s bathing suit time. Yeah. It was kind of making a joke about, you know, bathing suit time in a bathing suit. And the mom grabbed her side and grabbed where she thought they were fat rolls that she wasn’t happy with in front of her Children and our Children and said, oh, you think these fat rolls are directive and just did that. I thought, hmm, there’s a voice in her head that’s really powerful for her to think as a go to impulse to do that in front of her husband who just complimented her and in front of her Children in front of our Children. Like we addressed it pretty quickly were like, whoa, hold on a second here, we pulled the girls aside and had to talk about that. But there’s something going on. Either. Either she’s feeling burdened from the culture. Maybe she wasn’t complimented as a child. Maybe she experienced some type of abuse where that would be a common way to respond about her own comfort in her own skin. So I do think that one of the most powerful things that parents could do is to address their own sense of their own security and body image. I think that’ll go a long way with parents. It’s it’s so good and so true. And that’s what you’re trying to do is build up that child’s sense of self, self worth as well. And that is healthy. You don’t want them to be conceded obviously or have too much pride, but to be confident is a good thing. What about those Children? They may have physical impairment. I mean we’re kind of cruising along the way here that we’re all Prince and Princesses, um you know, fully capable of things. There are parents who have Children that, you know, they don’t walk the same. They don’t talk the same. They don’t look the same. How does that parents provide that child with the hope that they are to made in God’s image and they need to be confident in that? Well, I think two things. One if you’re the parent of a child with a physical disability, you have such a role to play of reminding him or her that those physical impairments do not negate their worth as a child of God. And so walking them through that as an image bearer. Um it doesn’t diminish any of the other qualities God has given them. And so that’s one part. But then the second part is a parent who has a child who doesn’t have a physical impairment. You have an even greater role to guide and instruct your Children to see others with compassion. Like you were talking earlier with empathy. Um how can you really train up your kids? Hey, when you see someone with a physical disability or with a mental disability, how can you engage with them? What are some things you can do? Go up and say hi, go up and you know, ask them questions and kind of, you can practice that a little bit. So they’re not pointing or what’s that. Um, but really on the front and get ahead of it and explain to them, you might see some Children that have trouble walking or in a wheelchair or maybe um have trouble with loud noises. We’re gonna see a lot more Children. Um, as we already are just with symptoms, autism, you know, in the spectrum is wide, but really helping our kids to understand how to engage with that rather than pointing, but really reminding them, they are made in the image of God, they are an image bearer. They have inherent worth, no matter their disability, they’re not an accident and oops, you know, God forgot they are just as important with so many qualities at the very end here I do want to discuss bullying because that seems to be a, you know, really horrific situation for some kids. That’s something with my boys. I would ask them frequently. I think Gene would say, man, you may be asked him too often, but I wanted to make sure they were in a good place. I guess that’s a better criticism that we never talked to them about it. Um, so I would every 23 weeks, are you guys doing okay? You know, are you getting bullied? Are you bullying anybody? I put both directions and you know, I think they did well, I, they never said that they were that they had. And so I think that’s a good thing. But how would you recommend a parent engage their Children with the issue of bullying? Either as the recipient or the giver? Absolutely. I think you’re checking in is spot on like you did it perfectly. You did. I think, I think consistently checking in, you know, asking who did you eat lunch with today? Who you’re hanging out with? Get to know their friends. Um, you know, invite them over. But checking in on both ends like, you know, are you making anyone feel excluded? Are you leaving anyone out? Um, ask them, you know, who seems to be kind of on their own and then that kind of gives you a gauge of some people and they’re kind of just so you have a pulse, um, kind of on the, on the situation at school, but if your child comes to you and says, I’m being bullied, um, definitely I would encourage parents take it seriously, like don’t just, oh, it’s just a phase or, you know, you’ll get stronger, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps don’t do that. Um, there’s a couple of things, um, we would encourage parents to focus with their Children on, of course, let’s talk about your worth. Let’s go back to the basics, what we’ve been talking about, who whose child are you were, you know, kind of get your foundation set, um, your made in the image of God reminding them of the positive attributes that they have. So that’s a great place to start then also make a plan. You know, let’s talk about a good plan, like who are some people you can seek out that you think are safe and kind whether that’s teachers or other students, um who can we go and talk to because you want your child to feel like you’re advocating for them and you’re hearing them and not just passing this off, you know, what are some things your child can do, especially if they’re at a certain age, how can they advocate for themselves while you also come alongside them? So I would say, you know, middle school and high school, like, okay, who can you seek out as a teacher to go and talk to, you know, in our school, it’s copy me on the email as a parent, just, that’s our safety protocol at the school, but let’s go and talk to the head man, let’s go and talk to the principal together, let’s make a plan so that your child knows this is serious, this isn’t something that my parent is just gonna pass off, because I think what happens so often when we don’t talk about things, our kids feel like, well they don’t get it or it’s a nuisance to them or they won’t understand, so I’m not gonna bring it up, so if you’re showing your kid, yes, I do think this is serious, I’m concerned, you know, I want better better options for you, let’s think through this and make a plan of what can be practical the way. But the advocating is what stood out to me from learning of watching Lindsay with the girls, I would want to get in there and protect, kind of do my thing and you know, who’s gonna like, I’ll step in, but what she did was she would advocate, but she would empower them to find their voice to figure out how they’re going to talk about it with their teacher and then be looped in, it wasn’t all or nothing and that’s what was really fun to watch us thinking, well, yeah, this is how you disciple your Children into em parent them into actually finding their own voice and my way, would have been really strong on the advocating, but not in the empowering, but I think across the board, something that we have noticed anecdotally is we, we encourage other parents connected to our Children and in our church, advocate for them take this seriously, that’s what’s heartbreaking is going. Some, we know what another child just said to your child and how devastating that looked. Uh please advocate for your child, They need you not to dismiss it um to hey, this is just what kids do, this is part of growing up, it’ll it’ll toughen them up a little bit, sure life is going to toughen them up, life got a lot of toughening up moments what they need at that point. I mean, we had one story where uh there was a racist comment said to a child and our daughter because she already had her voice, knew how to respond, that was amazing, like watching her in the moment respond appropriately because she saw someone else’s nervous laughter, she said dad, what? She was laughing, but they were saying really mean things, what do you think? I said, what do you think? She said, it looked nervous, it looked like she was trying to hide something, I thought she sees it like that’s the empathy that that that they learn primarily from their mom just really diving and being really gifted in that way. And I think that’s that’s when, you know, you’ve actually hit the mark as a parent, when your kids can express that empathy, engage in those conversations and those are really good moments and you go, okay, my kids heart leans in the right direction, right, doesn’t mean it’s perfect, you know, that they’re always going to make the right decision, but when you see them having empathy for their friends or for people that are being ridiculed or shamed, that’s a good moment, man. This has been terrific. And again, the book, God made me in his image, helping Children appreciate their bodies. Really aimed at 2 to 10 year olds. It sets the foundation for your Children to better understand what God intended for us in this life and equips them to do better in their relationships in elementary school and junior high high school home school, it doesn’t matter. It just helps them to do better. Thanks for being with us today. I really appreciate it. Thanks for having me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for the questions. But also the heartbeat of you all drill down to, it’s nice because it’s not just the stats and the scary stuff, but getting down to the heart of the, makes it a lot more fun to have that conversation, but I hope people will engage and uh, if you’re gonna order a copy from focus on the family, remember we’re not paying shareholders, all that goes right back into ministry, which is great. And if you can make a monthly gift, that’s wonderful. It helps keep the budget steady or one time gift is fine. But if you make either of those, we’ll send you a copy of the book as our way of saying thank you for joining us in ministry. Yeah, donate today to get a copy of this great book. God made me in his image. It will further your conversations with your kids are number is 800 the letter a and the word family or click the link in the show notes. And while you’re online, be sure to take a few minutes and fill out our free parenting assessment will link over to the website for that. It is a really helpful little tool to equip you with knowledge of where you’re strong in your parenting and maybe in the area or two of growth. Very practical and will send follow up articles and resources to help you grow as a mom or a dad. Again, the link for our parenting assessment is on the website and on behalf of jim daly and the entire team. Thanks for joining us today For focus on the family. I’m john fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in christ