“I Wish I Could Change My…”: Four Ways to Stop Negativity and Improve Your Teen’s Self Image

Lola is a seventeen-year-old from New York City. She likes reading, writing, and taking pictures, and she would love to be a novelist when she gets older.


Ever since the introduction of television and mass media, the world has gone through a revolution of sorts, an upheaval of what we as a society consider beautiful. Where people once strove for progress, to better themselves for only themselves, we now strive for perfection, to adhere to a mass-produced standard of beauty that bombards us from television, magazines, the books we read, billboards, and even everyday speech. Startling statistics show that the majority of women—over 80%!—dislike their bodies, and that the majority of young girls and teens start dieting to lose weight, regardless of whether or not they actually need to. These facts and the world can change, but the healthy self-image movement needs to be started by someone—and that someone can be you, starting with your very own teen.


  1. 1.       Be Careful with Your Compliments


Everyone likes to be told that he or she looks cute today, or that that he or she looks super good in that new shirt, but constantly commenting on your child’s looks—and only their looks—may give them the impression that that’s the only thing for which he or she is valued. Instead of complimenting your child on his or her looks, try to focus on his or her accomplishments and successes outside of physical appearance. An A on a test, making the soccer team, and learning to play a difficult piece on the violin are all accomplishments worthy of praise! Focus on making your teens feel good about things like this so they know that they are not just their looks, they are their successes, talents, and everything in between.


  1. 2.       Lead by Example


You can’t possibly expect someone going through the rapid physical, emotional, and mental stages of that tumultuous thing we call puberty to love him or herself if you don’t—so start loving yourself! If you, the parent, are constantly picking at your imperfections or on one diet or another, it’ll seem weak and hypocritical if you try to get your teen to be comfortable with him or herself if you’re still struggling with body image. Having self love as a parent is imperative to helping your teen do the same, so be happy with who you are, and your example will inspire your teen to do the same!


3. Focus on Health  


Whenever you broach the topic of weight or eating habits with your teen, your focus should never be physical appearance—it should always, always, always be health. If your teen is packing on the pounds and looking heavier or losing so much weight that they start to look skeleton-like, don’t say that or even think of it that way, think of the fact that your child is being unhealthy. All parents want their children to live long, happy lives, and to do that, they need to be healthy, so help your child realize that health is the goal, not a certain jean size.


  1. 4.       Live life!


The best way to help your teen have a healthy self and body image is not to focus on it! There are so many things that your child could be doing instead of obsessing about his or her body so help them get involved in these things—sports, dance, theater, anything! I can say from experience that when I’m having fun and goofing off, the last thing I’m thinking about is how much I hate my body! Encourage your teen to get involved with things that he or she loves, and if possible, take part in them as well. You might just find something new to bond over!


Photo: wearyourwords, from tumblr.com

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