7 Ways to Help Your Teen Develop a Healthy Body Image

Help your teen develop a healthy body image.
Henglein and Steets / Cultura / Getty Images

It’s normal for teens to experience minor body image as their bodies change and grow. While most teens eventually learn to like themselves, some develop lifelong self-esteem problems. It’s important to take a proactive approach to helping your teen develop a healthy sense of self.

Here are seven things you can do to help your teen develop a healthy body image:

1. Refrain from Making Critical Comments About Your Appearance

Your teen will learn a lot about self-image based on how you view your own appearance.

Criticizing your ‘muffin top’ or complaining about your receding hairline will teach your teen that harsh self-criticism is OK. Be a good role model when it comes to the way you treat your body and the way you talk about yourself.

2. Talk About Health, Not Weight

Don’t talk about wanting to be thin. Instead, place the emphasis on health. Set a goal to be strong and healthy.

Avoid using the word ‘diet’ as well. Make it clear that you want to eat food that will help your body perform best. Emphasize the importance of keeping your body healthy in other ways too, such as by getting plenty of sleep and lots of exercise.

3. Exercise Together                          

Exercising with your teen sends a healthy message. Rather than watching TV in the evenings, go for a walk together. Or, instead of playing video games, shoot hoops. Exercising with your teen shows that it’s important to get moving, and it proves that exercise can be fun.

4. Emphasize Positive Qualities Other than Looks

Make sure your teen knows that looks aren’t everything. Talk about your teen’s talents - such as being a great guitar player or an excellent dancer. Emphasize your teen’s positive characteristics too, such as being a kind and compassionate person.

Provide plenty of compliments.

Say things like, “The color of that shirt really looks nice on you.” But keep the bulk of your praise centered on your teen’s hard work, good attitude, and helpful nature.

5. Talk About the Media’s Portrayal of Beauty

Educate your teen about the way media portrays beauty. Discuss how magazine images are often altered to make people look thinner, taller, or more muscular. Explain how celebrities and people in the public eye devote endless hours each day toward improving their appearance with the help of trainers, chefs, and plastic surgeons. Make sure your teen understands that the media portrayals of perfection aren't usually attainable.

6. Help Your Teen Develop Healthy Self-Talk

There will be times where your teen will be overly critical of himself. Thinking things like, “I’m fat and disgusting. No one will ever date me,” and “I'm too short to ever get a date,” can be very damaging to your teen's self-image. Teach your teen how to respond to negative self-talk by replacing harsh criticism with healthier statements.

7. Validate Your Teen’s Feelings

When your teen’s feeling insecure, validate her feelings. Whether she can’t find a flattering dress for the dance, or she’s embarrassed to wear a bathing suit, acknowledge that it’s normal to feel self-conscious sometimes.

Encourage her to be bold and do the things she wants, even when she’s feeling uncertain about her body.

Continue Reading