Love your Body: How to Help Your Teen Deal with Bad Body Image

“I’m so fat. I hate myself.”
“I want to be taller. What can I do to improve my height.”
“I look too puny. How will I develop my muscles?”
“I hate my freckles.”
“I need a tan.”

Teenagers face a lot of pressure with regards to their appearance. Coupled with the desire to fit in with one’s peer group, to look “hot”, there is added pressure coming from the media, which has perpetuated a certain body image. Pop stars and models sport form-fitting clothes. Sports figures and Hollywood hunks with six-pack abs and big muscles. Your teen looks at these images and then looks at himself in the mirror and does not like what he sees. There is a tendency to be more self-critical, to see something as less than everyone else sees.

Studies indicates that around 90% of female teens are dissatisfied with their bodies and that their physical appearance ranks high among their major concerns in life. And issues on body image start early – girls as young as 9 years old said that they didn’t like how their bodies are shaped. And as teens become more dissatisfied with their bodies, teens may resort to dangerous dieting practices and develop bulimia, compulsive eating or anorexia. This may give rise to a whole list of other problems – physically, emotionally and psychologically. It may need some kind of intervention such as Utah substance abuse counselor.

As parents, how can we help our children love who they are and glory in their own unique personality and appearance? The key is to help your child build a healthy sense of self-esteem, to help him see his worth as he is. Here are some ways concerned parents can help:
– Teach your child to love who she is. If you make your child feel valued and loved, she will also value and love herself.
– Create a haven for your child. Peers, friends and even other people may, consciously or unconsciously, give hostile messages to our children. There may be comments not just about one’s body shape, but also one’s face, complexion and weight. Make your home a place where your child will feel safe from criticism with regards to his appearance. Recognize your child’s strengths and find opportunities to provide positive comments about these.
– Provide role models. Find examples of men and women who have achieved success because of what they did, not how they looked like.
– Eat together. Make it a point to have meals together at least once a day, where there are no distractions such as TV. Rather, make family dinner times a pleasant time where you can talk about how your day went. Don’t make dinner time your platform to discuss body image issues, either.
– Set a good example. Sometimes, we may not be aware that we ourselves are contributing to their poor body image by having poor body image ourselves. When we constantly complain about our appearance and our weight, this pre-occupation will also be our teen’s pre-occupation. Eat healthy meals and exercise regularly (not mainly to look thin but to stay healthy).
– Be conscious of statements and actions. Again, we can do a lot to encourage or discourage our child and how he sees himself. Be aware of statements such as “You shouldn’t have that dessert, dear. It could go straight to your already bulging stomach.” Also, there may be different messages we send to boys and girls. To boys, we say that it’s okay and even healthy for them to eat more while with girls, we unconsciously send the message that they should eat less. Being more aware of your statements will help you hold your tongue when you know that what you are about to say can be taken as criticism against how they look.
– Supervise his meals. Make sure that there are a lot of healthy meals and snacks available in your home.
– Teach your teen to be more critical about what he sees in the media. Help your teen see that the images presented on TV and magazines are not true reflections of reality. It will be beneficial to realize that most images are part of a marketing strategy to encourage people to buy products.
– Get help. Your teen may need Utah counseling to help him cope with poor body image issues and peer pressure. Utah therapists can help the teen become more self-aware and see his or her special abilities and talents.

Sometimes, it takes the whole family to go for family counseling in Utah to help the family be more proactive and each have healthy self-images. With the help of Utah counseling, your family can learn have wholesome attitudes about their bodies.

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