Written by: Denise Morgan
In this media-obsessed age where images of stars and starlets are scrutinised daily, it can be difficult to know how to ensure your teenager has a realistic and healthy view of their own body.
It may be a clichĂ©, but feeling good really does begin on the inside, so if your teen is eating healthily, they will be inclined to feel and look healthier. Instilling the importance of healthy food is ideally done as early as possible, so introduce as many different kinds of fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet as soon as they are able to eat! Again, this can prove a struggle, as any parent knows a child’s tastes can differ day to day and even hour to hour in some cases, but if the fridge is stocked with greens and processed and junk food are kept to a minimum, your child’s healthy eating will be seen as the norm and not merely an alternative.
Keeping fit comes can be enjoyed in many different ways, so even if your teenager abhors all forms of sport, there will be a way they can keep active. Walking and cycling are great ways to get out and about as a family so why not make keeping fit a family event? Children tend to follow by example so if you are involved in a healthy routine then chances are they will be too. If the outdoors isn’t their thing, or they prefer to hang out with their friends, bowling is a great way to exercise gently while allowing them to enjoy time with their peers.
Boys can be just as affected by social pressures as girls so watch out for signs that they may be feeling conscious of their changing bodies too. The media has a lot to answer for and teenagers often look to pop and TV stars for inspiration. However, it is important that your children are aware of how unrealistic magazines and music videos can be. Remind them of the unrealistic nature of magazines and television, but be careful not to ostracise yourself by being too critical of stars they love.
Set an example
If you are negative about your body, then chances are your child will pick up on this and begin feeling that way about themselves. Referring to yourself or your partner as fat, or saying that you wish you looked like such and such may not seem harmful but the more your child hears conversations like this, the more likely they are going to be made to think of their own body image and even become obsessed with it. Positive reinforcement allows your child to be happy with who they are and what they look like. Pay them compliments about their appearance and about little achievements around the house to boost their confidence. Little things like this really can help to build confidence.
Emphasise other attributes
For a 21st Century teenager it can appear that everything is about appearances, but you can help them see that there are other things in life worth thinking about. Hobbies are a fantastic way of both building talents and confidence. Sign them up for a sport they love, music lessons, or even local volunteering opportunities. This will give your teenager a wider range of interests to focus on and allow them to see the importance of other aspects of life, rather than just appearance.
If you believe your teenager is suffering due to a preoccupation with their appearance and it is impacting upon their physical or mental health, speak to your GP or other health professional.