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Help Your Teen Embrace a Healthy Body Image

When it comes to body image, our culture is continually bombarding young people with unrealistic expectations. The concepts of femininity and masculinity impressed on children are airbrushed and fantasy-like. In order for kids to grow up with practical and healthy expectations, it’s vital for parents to intervene.

Understanding Body Image
According to Women’s and Children’s Health Network, body image involves three concepts:

  1. How you perceive yourself.
  2. How you believe you should look.
  3. How you want others to see you.

When those things get out of balance, the result is a poor body image. A positive body image is an integral component of good mental health. It relates to self-confidence and self-acceptance and promotes healthy habits like proper nutrition, exercising, and a balanced lifestyle. Some studies show a poor body image leaves more than half of girls between the ages of 16 and 21 wanting surgery to adjust their appearance. Even more disturbing, girls with an unhealthy body image are more likely to commit suicide.

Kids See It All
No matter how hard you work at shielding your children from inappropriate messages about body image, they are bound to be exposed to unrealistic expectations. Through television, movies, websites, social media, video games, and magazines, young people are inundated with images of bodies that are exaggerated. As Family Doctor explains, children as young as 3 can experience issues with body image. You might even be inadvertently sending a negative message since something as small as frowning at your own image in a mirror when you’re trying on an outfit can make an impact.

The reality is that there is no “perfect” body, but many kids grow up believing they should try to achieve perfection. That can lead to poor self-esteem and mental health issues such as depression and eating disorders.

Be Alert
As a parent, it’s vital to remain sensitive to signs of eating disorders in your kids. While we typically think of teenage girls as most vulnerable to eating disorders, boys and younger kids are experiencing issues more frequently. Children as young as 6 can become concerned enough about their weight to put themselves on diets, so be alert to warnings, even if it seems your kids are too young to have issues. Watch for weight loss or weight fluctuations. If your child is disappearing after meals, this could be a sign of purging. Other signs include avoiding social plans that involve food or taking food to the bedroom supposedly to eat it and then not eating it. If you suspect your teen suffers from an eating disorder, reach out to your physician right away.

What Can You Do?
Thankfully, there is a lot parents can do to help their kids embrace a healthy body image. As CNN explains, how you talk about your own body directly impacts how your kids see themselves. That frown in the mirror is a starting point! Don’t criticise your own appearance. Instead, focus on an overall healthy outlook. You can also make it a point to talk about good health rather than appearances. Compliment your kids and others on things besides looks, such as making good choices, personal progress, and moral character. What you emphasize will be what your children absorb as being important.

Another suggestion is to participate in healthy activities with your kids. Make exercise a family affair by going for a bike ride or hike together. Eat balanced meals and buy nutritious snacks. And talk about your own good choices in a positive manner, not like you’re giving up anything or unhappy about the selection.

A healthy body image is vital to your child’s mental and physical wellness. Encourage your teen to embrace a realistic outlook and stay alert to signs of eating disorders. Your kid can grow up happy and healthy with your positive actions and attitude.

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