You’ve overheard your teenage daughter saying she wants to lose weight. Maybe she’s spent too much time scrolling through content from influencers on Instagram. Or perhaps a comment you made about another person’s body stuck with her.
In today’s world, teens are inundated with messages about how they should look online. Yet, their perception of their body starts at home. Follow these tips to model body positivity and improve your child’s body image.
Why a positive body image matters
Teenage bodies are rapidly changing thanks to puberty, so it’s an ideal time to make sure their body image doesn’t suffer as a result. Considering that teens spend over 7.5 hours a day consuming electronic media, it’s hard for parents to know what messages they’re picking up about their bodies.
Teenagers with negative body image are at higher risk of low self-esteem, depression, and eating disorders.
How to help
As a parent, you may feel helpless knowing your teens are exposed to so many harmful messages daily. Fortunately, you can take steps to help reframe your children’s perceptions of their bodies.
Few people are immune to societal pressure to look a certain way. If you’re a chronic dieter who makes negative comments about your body, then it’s likely that others have picked up on that. Correct this behavior with your teens. Acknowledge your past relationship with your body and vow to be more positive going forward.
This applies to the whole family—correct anyone who engages in this kind of self-hating behavior. Similarly, when talking about others, stop making negative comments about weight loss or gain. Your children pick up on these, too.
Help your teens fall in love with football, hiking, kayaking, whatever their interest may be! Break the association that exercising is only for losing weight. Make exercising fun and positive instead.
Try new activities as a family on the weekends to get everyone moving. Encourage your teens to join a sports team that interests them. Not only will they make friends, but the endorphins from the fun exercise will boost their mood.
Make positive food choices
Help reframe your teens’ potentially harmful associations with food by involving them in cooking and meal planning. Take your children shopping with you to show them healthy options and explain what foods make a balanced meal.
Let them help you prepare your meals, and make this fun. Encourage them to try new healthy foods. You can help reframe their thinking that certain foods are “good” or “bad” by showing them a nutritious diet.
Focus on the whole picture
Sadly, some teens may start to think how they look is all they have to offer. If your teen only comments about his physical appearance, redirect this thinking. Encourage him to focus on his personality, kindness, and intelligence.
Praise him for good grades and being kind to strangers. Help build his self-confidence apart from how he looks but rather who he is. If your teen is still struggling with this, encourage him to join a club based on his interests. Or take him to volunteer at a food pantry or an animal shelter to expand his horizons.
Negate negative messages
Pay attention to what your children say about their bodies. You might pick up on some messages they’ve received. They may even regurgitate incorrect information about diets or exercise. This is your cue to refute false and harmful information about dieting or exercising.
Also, combat negative stereotypes you might see together on TV or in magazines. Show them where photos are airbrushed to make models look a certain way. Explain to them that they’re going through puberty and weight fluctuation is normal and healthy.
Ask for additional help
If your teen is displaying signs of an eating disorder or depression, it’s time to consult a professional about body image issues. Talk with a pediatrician or licensed therapist to get your child on a healthier path for the future.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
About the Author: Elizabeth Long – I have always enjoyed writing as a form of self-expression to help me focus my thoughts. I now write meaningful posts designed to give readers helpful take-home points they can act on in their own lives.
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Observed each July and formerly recognized as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, BIPOC Mental Health Month highlights the unique mental health challenges and needs of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC). Please join us in recognizing the struggles of BIPOC and bringing awareness to the need for adequate, accessible, culturally relevant mental health treatment, care, and services.
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The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
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