A healthy body image is an important part of building a teenager’s self-esteem. Here’s what you can do to help your teen feel good about themselves.
Teenagers are often under great pressure to meet strict, unrealistic and harmful ideals of beauty and body composition, weight and shape. The pursuit of a “perfect” body or appearance can have a huge impact on a teenager’s confidence and physical and mental health. You can help your child develop and maintain a healthy body image and self-esteem. Here’s how.
- 1 Causes of a negative body image
- 2 Consequences of a negative body image
- 3 Talking about body image
- 4 Other Strategies to Promote a Healthy Body Image
- 5 Sources
Causes of a negative body image
Body image is how you think or feel about your appearance, your body. Maintaining a normal, healthy body image during adolescence, a time of major physical and emotional changes, can be challenging. Factors that can harm a teen’s body image include:
– Natural or expected weight gain and other changes due to puberty
– Peer pressure to appear a certain way
– Social media and other media images that promote the ideal body as fit, lean or muscular. What encourages to aspire to unrealistic or unattainable body ideals
– Having a parent overly concerned about their own weight or the general weight or appearance of their child
– Viewing video content in which a teenager is seen as something for the sexual use of others, rather than an independent, thoughtful person (sexual objectification)
Consequences of a negative body image
Teens who have negative thoughts about their bodies are at increased risk for:
– Low self-esteem
– nutrition and growth issues
– Eating disorders
– Have a body mass index of 30 or more (obesity)
Additionally, some teens may try to control their weight by smoking, taking nutritional supplements to “build muscle,” or changing their appearance by buying beauty products or having cosmetic surgery. Spending time worrying about their bodies and how they are performing can also reduce teens’ ability to focus on other activities.
Talking about body image
Talking about body image with your children can help them feel comfortable in their own skin. When discussing body image, you might:
– Lead by example
How you accept your body and talk about other people’s bodies can have a major impact on your teen. Remind your child that you are eating a balanced diet for your health, not just to look at your body a certain way. Also think about what you read and watch, as well as the products you buy and the message your choices send.
Use positive language
– Rather than talking about the physical attributes of your child or others, instead praise their personal characteristics such as strength, perseverance and kindness. Avoid pointing out negative physical attributes in others or yourself. Don’t make or allow hurtful nicknames, comments, or jokes based on a person’s physical characteristics, such as their weight.
Explain the effects of puberty
– Make sure your child understands that weight gain is a healthy and normal part of development, especially during puberty.
– Talk about media messages
Social media, movies, TV shows, and magazines can send the message that only a certain body type or skin color is acceptable and that maintaining an attractive appearance is the most important goal. Even media that promotes health, athletics, or physical fitness can represent a narrow body ideal: a toned, lean ideal. Social media and magazine images are also often changed. Therefore, teenagers may try to respond to ideals that do not exist in the real world. Check what your child is reading, scrolling or watching and discuss it. Encourage your child to question what he sees and hears.
Teenagers use social media and services to share photos and get comments. Knowing the judgments of others can make teens more aware of their appearance. Research also suggests that teens’ frequent use of social media may be linked to poor mental health and well-being. Set rules for your teen’s use of social media and discuss what he or she posts and views.
Other Strategies to Promote a Healthy Body Image
In addition to talking to your teen about healthy body image, you could:
– Team up with your teen’s doctor
Your teen’s doctor can help her set realistic goals for body mass index (BMI) and weight based on her personal growth history and overall health.
– Establish healthy eating habits.
Teach your teen to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Offer a wide range of foods. Talk about the harms of fad diets and avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” »
– Combating negative media messages.
Expose your kids to people who are famous for their accomplishments, not their looks. For example, read books or watch movies about people’s inspiration and perseverance in overcoming difficulties.
– Praise achievements
Help your child enjoy what he or she does, rather than what he or she looks like. Look for opportunities to praise your efforts, skills, and accomplishments.
– Promote physical activity.
Participation in sports and physical activities, especially those that do not emphasize a particular weight or shape, can promote good self-esteem and a positive body image.
– Encourage positive friendships
Friends who accept and support your teen can be a beneficial influence. In particular, friends who have healthy relationships with their own bodies can be a positive influence.
Nesi J, et al. Using social media for social comparison and feedback-seeking: Gender and popularity moderate associations with depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 2015; doi:10.1007/s10802-015-0020-0.
Bornioli A, et al. Body dissatisfaction predicts the onset of depression among adolescent females and males: A prospective study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 2020: doi:10.1136/jech-2019-21303.
Viner RM, et al. Roles of cyberbullying, sleep, and physical activity in mediating the effects of social media use on mental health and wellbeing among young people in England: A secondary analysis of longitudinal data. The Lancet. Child & Adolescent Health. 2019; doi:10.1016/S2352-4642(19)30186-5.
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