Healthy Teen Body Image

As children grow and begin experience the different stages of puberty, a whirlwind of changes occurs within their bodies and minds. Naturally, it’s also time when they start to pay more attention to their appearances.

Girls and boys may start to focus more on their diet and personal hygiene because they want the mirror to reflect the image they want to see. These can be healthy changes, but often time advertising and media show unrealistic images that pre-teens and teens want to emulate. This age group is particularly susceptible to these pictures, which often project false ideas of beauty through air brushing, makeup, and lighting effects.

Parents play an important role in developing their child’s understanding of self-image. And moms and dads can help teens form a healthy body image by having open conversations. Providing guidance about how to form and accept their own opinions of their bodies can have a great impact on their well being and confidence in themselves. The influence of the media and the fashion industry on teen body image is strong, so incorporating talks early on in a child’s life can ease the pressure of these discussions later in that child’s adolescent phases.

Tips for Talking about Health Teen Body Image

Have your teens mentioned wanting to diet to change their appearances? Encourage them to focus on eating nutritious foods and limiting fast food or other junk food. You can talk about the benefits of food and multivitamins for mental health, happiness, and overall well being as well and how this can attract other like- minded and healthy people into their lives. Parents can also encourage teens to get physical activity through sports or any other exercise they enjoy. Of course, exercise has also been shown to develop positive mood and release endorphins, encouraging confidence and self-esteem.

Many teens enjoy experimenting with clothing styles, hairstyles, and makeup to develop their own sense of style. Often times, teens may compare themselves to their peers and to the photos they see in magazines and social media. This self-exploration can enhance their sense of individuality and self-awareness about how image changes others’ perceptions. It is also important for parents to have conversations about these changes and the impact of media on choices.

Kid’s Health gives some great tips for helping teens to have a healthy body image.

  • Accept and understand – don’t be overly critical or dismiss their concerns about their appearances. This too shall pass.
  • Give lots of compliments – compliment teens in all areas of strength, not just appearance.
  • Compliment what’s on the inside too – compliment them verbally on their good character qualities like friendliness, generosity, and kindness.
  • Talk about what appearances mean – have discussions about how others may perceive their appearance and how it can impact job availability or other opportunities.
  • Set reasonable boundaries – give them a bit of extra time in the bathroom, but also be sure they are respectful of the rest of the family’s need to use it.
  • Be a good role model – send positive messages about how you talk about your own looks. Be a good example.

Paradox Psych Services is a child and teen therapy center with two Carlsbad locations: Bressi Ranch and Aviara Parkway. Our child therapists at Bressi Ranch are also near San Marcos. We offer an action and goal oriented approach to child and teen therapy. Additionally, our skilled therapists have earned the highest achievable degree in their field. To learn more about our services, contact us today for a free phone consultation. 

About Susan Gehrig, PhD

Susan Gehrig, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and founder of Paradox Psychological Services located in Carlsbad. She has a passion for supporting the wellbeing of children and teens. Her expertise is in child mindfulness and self-compassion, cognitive behavioral therapy, and child development. Dr. Gehrig provides psychoeducational testing and therapy services to help build a plan for success. Paradox provides services for families of San Diego North County and greater areas.

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