Teens are flooded with images on dress, body image, and physical appearance through the internet, TV, and social media almost daily. In fact, most people, regardless of age are flooded with these images. However, the difference is that teens pay attention to these messages perhaps a bit more closely than most because this is precisely what they’re concerned about at this stage of life. Teens are looking for where they fit in and their appearance is a significant way adolescents find what they’re looking for.
Additionally, because teens are going through various hormonal changes and physical development, they may worry about whether they are overweight or underweight. They may be overly concerned with their looks and physical makeup. Because of the physical changes that teens are going through, their weight, shape, and even skin type might change. All of these may affect their self esteem as well as their emotional and psychological well being. It’s important for parents to encourage in their teens a healthy body image. With a healthy sense of the way a teen looks, they are more likely to feel good about themselves, have a positive self esteem, and not let their physical changes get in the way of making friends or getting good grades.
However, when a teen develops a body image that is unhealthy or distorted, he or she may develop a preoccupation with the way they look. Certainly, we all have certain preoccupations with our bodies, which might influence our appetite and food choices. If we want to stay under 150 pounds, for instance, we may not eat the chocolate cake for dessert or the extra pancake. However, when preoccupations become obsessions, they might point to a disturbance about a teen’s body image. Obsessions are unwanted thoughts that are hard to get rid of. For many of us, unwanted thoughts come and go and we’re able to move on to more life-affirming, positive thinking. For others, however, unwanted thoughts might continue again and again until they become pervasive and consistent thought patterns. For some teens, this can be the case with food, body image, and with eating patterns.
In order to promote in a teen a healthy attitude toward their body, consider the following tips:
- Be a positive role model around the home.
- Avoid making comments on your own as well as the body of your teen, or anyone else for that matter.
- Praise your teen’s strengths and abilities, not their looks and appearance.
- Tell your teen you love them, regardless of their appearance.
- When needed, talk to your teen about their thoughts on body image and self esteem.
- Listen to any concerns your teen has about their body with a nonjudgmental attitude.
- Remind your teen that you’re available to talk to whenever they need it.
- Talk to your teen about the images in the media and how they can be unhealthy, distorted, and unrealistic.
- Talk to your teen about peer pressure versus having friends that accept each other for who they are.
- Parents – explore your own ideas about body image so that you can continue to be a positive role model.
These are suggestions for promoting a healthy body image in your teen. Teens who have an unhealthy body image are at risk for developing an eating disorder. If you’re already seeing signs of this, contact a mental health provider today.
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