By Alicia Grace
Teenagehood is truly an exciting and challenging time for your child. Kids at this age are starting to be self-aware of the world around them, including their body image. Of course, a parent can only do so much to boost their teenagers’ self-esteem and foster positive body image so it is helpful to know some ways that may help.
What’s Body Image?
As your child becomes a teenager, the chances are that she will start worrying about how her body looks. She will probably compare her body with those of peers and even people she sees on the internet or TV. One’s body image is essentially how the person feels or thinks about her body, and what she imagines it looks like.
Fostering a positive teenage body image is a crucial part of building your child’s self-confidence and might help her feel and think positively about her body. On the other hand, negative body image can have a slew of adverse effects, including anorexia, eating disorders, compulsive exercise, anxiety, depression, extremely low self-esteem, and troubles with socializing. Low self-esteem, in turn, can seriously affect your teen’s social interactions, relationships, activity choices, and mood.
Unhealthy body image can make your child feel embarrassed about her image. It is about feeling unhappy with the way she looks. Teenagers who feel this way usually desire to alter their body shape or size.
Healthy body image is all about feeling satisfied and happy about your body image — being comfortable in your own skin. When your teenager feels good about her body image, she will enjoy healthy self-esteem, exercise well, and eat right.
Good body image at teenagehood can be a solid foundation for good mental and physical health later as an adult.
Similarly, negative body image can have long-lasting or lifetime adverse consequences.
Risk Factors for Negative Teenage Body Image
As you might already know, some teenagers are more susceptible to effects of unhealthy body image than others. These are the teens who are prone to feeling unhappy about how they look. However, the following risk factors can put your teen in danger of developing negative body image:
- Different body size or shape – if your teen has a body that is obviously different from what might be termed as the “ideal” body shape or size, she is more likely to develop unhealthy body image
- Peer and media pressure – teens can feel pressure from peers, media, and even family to fit into what others might call “beautiful” or “attractive.” Perhaps a schoolmate or family is teasing her about her weight.
- Perfectionists — teens with strict sense of what beauty or body size/shape looks like might fall prey to unhealthy body image
- Low self-esteem — children with low self-confidence are most likely to have adverse body image
Negative Body Image: Side Effects
Again, teenagers who develop unhealthy body image are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem. This, in turn, can lead to mood swings and negative emotions. Some teenagers even go to the extent of cutting themselves. Also, teens with low self-esteem are more likely to fall prey to risk factors associated with weight management, eating disorders, and mental health disorders.
Encouraging a Healthy Body Image: How You Can Help
Consider the following tips to encourage your teen to develop healthy body image
Be a good role model
You are probably the most influential person in your kid’s life. That’s why you need to encourage your teenager to feel good about herself by showing her how it is done. How so?
- Consume a balanced, healthy diet to show your child how to eat right. Load up on veggies, fruits, useful proteins, and much more.
- Avoid dieting as it’ll show her that you have no confidence in how you look
- Avoid negative talk about body image, and encourage her to do so
- Accept other people’s body shapes and sizes — show her it is okay to be you
- Be critical of mass media images or messages that seem to suggest certain body shapes and sizes are “ideal”
Research shows that people who exercise regularly appreciate their bodies and feel good about themselves. Encourage exercising through:
- Encourage the whole family to be active — take family walks, outings, park days
- Identify a team sport your child enjoys and play together often
- Join a fitness club or gym that doesn’t encourage body shaming
Helping Your Teen Feel Confident about herself
A strong sense of self-worth and identity is paramount your teen’s self-esteem. With that said, self-esteeming building tips include:
- Encourage expression of feelings, development of problem-solving skills, and expression of individuality and opinions.
- Encourage them to say “no” if they feel they have been disrespected or mistreated
- Reward achievements such as skills, talents, and personality
- Give roles at home — make sure that your teens have an essential role to play at home
- Do not tease them about their weight, looks, etc