How can you help your teens work on their body image?

Teenagers are extremely self-conscious and want to fit in with their peers desperately. During the years of adolescence, your son or daughter goes through a plethora of physical, emotional and cognitive changes and constantly measures himself or herself against the surrounding society. Unfortunately, the images that the media displays of thin, beautiful female models or muscular male figures are often either retouched or examples of women on starvation diets and men on steroids. Our teenagers are trying to achieve a perfect body, thinking that in this way they'll be happy and deserving of love, like the movie stars or models smiling brightly in the magazines. According to recent polls, 90 percent of girls aren't satisfied with their body as it is, and the number-one desire of girls aged 11 to 17 is to be thinner.

As parents, we can help by setting a good example of someone who eats a balanced diet, exercises, and who does not constantly obsess about food, diets and body size. This means not criticizing ourselves out loud: "Oh, I can't believe how fat I look." The more you complain about how you look, the more your teens will feel critical about how they look. Try to emphasize other things that are important in life, such as effort that people put in to accomplish their goals, inner values like honesty and loyalty that your teen has, or characteristics that make for a good friend and good spouse, such as tact and being an empathetic listener.

On the other hand, you might want to make sure that you have a lot of fruit and vegetables in the house and that there are other interesting activities to enjoy at home besides watching TV. If your teens want to have clearer skin or to lose weight, be available to take them to a dermatologist or dietician. When your teens want to talk, listen intently, as it gives the message that they're important and valuable, no matter how they look.




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