Some adolescents might find it hard to feel good about their bodies. They might feel as though there is something wrong with the way they look. And although this isn’t true for all teens, adolescents are continually bombarded with messages from the media and movies about how to look. Teens are frequently sent an underlying message that they are not enough. They are too fat, too short, too skinny, or too tall. They are not cool enough or won’t be accepted if they aren’t wearing the right trendy clothes. Having the thought of not being good enough, smart enough, or attractive enough can eat away at a teen over time.
For some this can translate to feeling like there is something wrong with their body/body image issues. In fact, feeling like you have something wrong with your body is not all that uncommon. Most everyone might admit that they want to lose weight, go to the gym more often, or strengthen their abs. However, it becomes a bit more severe when you’re willing to have surgery to change your body, when you are obsessed with your body looks, or when you begin to participate in one or more of the following behaviors:
- Hiding parts of your body (with body position, clothing, makeup, hair, hats, etc.)
- Comparing your body to others’ appearance
- Seeking surgery
- Checking in a mirror
- Avoiding mirrors
- Skin picking
- Excessive grooming
- Excessive exercise
- Changing clothes excessively
But here’s how caregivers and parents can help:
Be a good role model. Your child notices your behaviors, choices, eating habits, attitudes, and spoken words, even though he or she may not say so. In fact, adolescence is a time for searching for identity and one’s role in life. So, small cues picked up in everyday interactions are going to matter to a teen. They notice. Parents, you can be mindful of the example you’re setting.
Be positive. Never make critical comments about your teen’s body. If your son or daughter has a weight problem, there’s a good chance that your teen is already aware of it. Between social pressures to look thin and peer expectations, your child is likely already aware of the ways that he or she falls short. Negative remarks on a teen’s body can put a weight on their self-esteem and body image issues.
Teach your child how to beware of messages from the media. Your teen daughter might easily begin to believe the messages she receives to stay thin or to follow all the fashion trends. And your adolescent son might become obsessed with building muscle at the gym. You can let your children know that glossy magazines airbrush their images to make models look better than they are. There are many tricks that Hollywood and large companies use to make their products and models appear better than perfect. When teens learn that commercials and glossy advertising in magazines are intended to sell products, they might not fall prey to the standard of beauty that the media sets.
Emphasize your teen’s other character traits. Let your teen know about the many character traits, talents, and skills that he or she has. This helps to de-emphasize appearance and provides them with a whole picture of who they are. It includes their skills and talents into a fuller picture of their self-esteem.
Make healthy living a part of your family’s lifestyle. From eating healthy to regular exercise, your entire family can adopt having healthy relationships with their body. When teens have healthy meals to eat, a model for regular but not excessive exercise, and get a sense that their body is one important part of who they are but it’s not everything, they are more apt to having a healthy body image.
Help Teens Develop a Healthy Body Image. WebMD. Retrieved on July 15, 2014 from: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/raising-fit-kids/mood/healthy-body-image?page=2
By Robert Hunt
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