What is Body Image? The way we think about our size, shape and appearance all make up our own individual body image. How we feel about our body can impact how we perceive ourselves as a whole.
As our children develop into teenagers and the challenges of puberty appear, we as parents are presented with a whole new set of problems and worries. One of the most surprising changes in our children can be their sudden interest in their own appearance. As our pre-teens grow it isn’t just their outward appearance that changes, so does their body image. It is important to help create a healthy body image where our child feels positive about their appearance and body. As adults in our child’s world it is important to set a good example in how our own opinions, feelings and ideas about body image are portrayed. A negative body image can be linked to self-esteem issues and feeling bad about ourselves. Many common teenage issues such as eating disorders can be linked to a poor body image.
Body image can be forever changing and can be sensitive to many factors. Every experience we have helps to form our own personal body image. All of the people around you such as parents, teachers and friends give you ideas on how to value yourself and your body. It seems unfair that at the exact moment our children become so aware of their physical appearance that their young bodies start to change in such dramatic ways. From spots and sweating, to new hair growth on their body, everything seems to be out of control. We have to be cautious and kind as parents because criticism or teasing can be particularly hurtful at this age,even a fairly innocent remark could have your pre-teen reeling for days. Our youngsters are constantly comparing themselves with others and this includes media images of how they “should” look. It’s not surprising that many youngsters end up dissatisfied with the image that appears before them in the mirror.
As we have discussed it is important to promote a healthy body image within the home and that starts with you.
- Give lots of compliments and reassurance. Compliment ACTIONS – what they DO is more important than how they LOOK!
- Be a good role model – A healthy and positive body image is created when our children like their bodies. When a child sees parents caring for their own bodies, making healthy choices and talking about their bodies in a positive way, they are teaching their children to do the same.
- Acceptance – Understand and empathize with the stage that your child is going through, we were all teenagers once!
- Discuss the message that different outfits and styles can portray without preaching or being judgemental.
- Revamp the bathroom. Encourage good personal hygiene by creating a space that your teen will want to use. Change towels or shower curtains to ones that your child has chosen themselves.
- Healthy diet – Have healthy and nutritious snacks available for your teenager, as they always seem to be hungry, especially in between meals!
- Media – Be mindful of what the media is portraying to your teenager about body image. Watch or read with them so that you can talk about what your teen is seeing.