Whether you remember your teenage years with a shudder or appreciation, we all know how vulnerable teenagers are when it comes to body image.
Fast Stats About Teens & Body Image
Just a few quick statistics about our teenagers and their body image and self-esteem today:
- Among high school students, 44% of girls and 15% of guys are attempting to lose weight.1
- 75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating. This compares to 25% of girls with high self-esteem.2
- More than 40% of boys in middle school and high school regularly exercise with the goal of increasing muscle mass.3
- A girl's self-esteem is more strongly related to how she views her own body shape and body weight, than how much she actually weighs.4
- 61 percent of teen girls with low self-esteem admit to talking badly about themselves (compared to 15 percent of girls with high self-esteem).2
It seems the best thing we can do for our teens is to help them focus on more than just appearance. Pediatrician Cindy Gellner, MD, says: "Let your child know that you love them for who they are rather than how they look." To do this, here are five ways to help your teens have a better body image.
5 Tips to Better Teen Body Image
1. Don't criticize your teen's appearance.
"The most important way to set kids on the path to loving their bodies is, first off, don't criticize or tease your child about how they look. If they are overweight, praise them for any efforts that they are doing to eat a healthy diet, get the right amount of sleep, and exercise every day," says Gellner.
2. Be a healthy role model.
Obsessing about your appearance and weight will demonstrate your feelings and opinions about yourself, which tells your teenager that your worth is based on your appearance. That simply is not true. Learn more about having a healthy body image and self-esteem yourself.
3. Remind your teen that every person has a body part they feel sensitive about and celebrities don't really look like how they may appear.
Gellner advises: "If there is a particular body part they are sensitive about…focus on another part of their body they feel good about. Remind them that models and other celebrities in magazines and on TV have a lot of people that help them look the way they do, including people to airbrush their photos before they are printed."
4. Be a good listener and support your teen.
Another aspect of the Dove study on self-esteem2 noted that the top wish among teen girls is for their parents to communicate better with them. "This helps your child realize that their feelings and thoughts really do matter" and that, "you are there for them whenever they need you" says Gellner.
5. Help your teens appreciate what their body does everyday.
Focusing on what we do have rather than what we don't reminds us that there is more to life than our appearance and ourselves. Our bodies really are pretty amazing in what they let us do every day.
Although there will always be outside influences on both our teenagers and ourselves, help your teen navigate the body shaming epidemic and build better self-esteem.
This post is the second in a series about body shaming. Read the first post: Body Shaming—A Cultural Epidemic.
1New, Michelle. Developing Your Child's Self-Esteem." Kids Health. http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/self_esteem.html.
2New National Report Reveals the High Price of Low Self-Esteem. Dove Addresses Self-Esteem Crisis with Unprecedented Effort to Reach Girls." PR Newswire. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-national-report-reveals-the-high-price-of-low-self-esteem-65355592.html.
3Eisenberg, Marla E., Melanie Wall, and Dianne Neumark-Sztainer. "Muscle-enhancing Behaviors Among Adolescent Girls and Boys." Pediatrics. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/11/14/peds.2012-0095.abstract.
4Linton, Melissa. "Teens & self-esteem: Your teen's self-esteem dependent on you." Examiner.com. http://www.examiner.com/article/teens-self-esteem-your-teen-s-self-esteem-dependent-on-you.