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Sex, Gender, and Body Image

What should I say when my third-grader asks about the "bikini body" magazine covers in the checkout lane?

Talking about those magazine covers -- or any age-inappropriate content your kids see -- is the best way to convey your values and provide a buffer between the media and your kids. Here are some ideas to short-circuit the media's messages about body image:

  • Answer your kids' questions as honestly, simply, and age-appropriately as you can. Don't over-explain -- just stick to the most direct answer.
  • Stress that these magazines are for grown-ups.
  • Explain that the magazines are located in the checkout lane because the store wants you to buy them on impulse, and the magazine uses attention-grabbing pictures to that end.
  • Explain that your family cares about people no matter what they look like and that you think being a person with good character is more important than being someone who looks good in a swimsuit.
  • Ask your kids what they think the model would say if she could talk. Maybe "I'm cold"? (Turning the tables helps your kid realize that the person on the cover is human, too, and has thoughts and feelings.)