Many adolescents experience stress and anxiety as their bodies undergo physical changes during
puberty. When comparing themselves to peers and images from media, teens can lose confidence
in themselves and develop a poor self-image. In more severe cases, these pressures can lead to
depression, body dysmorphic disorder, or eating disorders.
In a culture where swimsuit season is described as a “dreaded” time of year when people need to “prepare” their bodies for public display, teens struggling with insecurities can feel overwhelmed. Luckily, parents can help.
Here are 3 important tips to foster a positive self-image in your teens:
1. If your teen says “I’m fat” or “I’m too skinny,” try not to simply shut it down by responding with a corrective statement. Instead ask, “What makes you think you are too fat/skinny?” This allows for dialogue to explore and guide your teen in a meaningful way.
2. Be mindful of how you talk about your own body. Making negative comments about your own weight, or about others, can have an impact on your teen’s self-image. Lead by example and
avoid talking about dieting or weight loss. Say things like, “I’m really proud of how I can walk three miles without having to stop,” or “I embrace the changes that I see in my face and body as I age. It’s a natural process, just like the changes in your body as a teen.”
3. Offer compliments about what your teen’s body can DO and not what it looks like, such as, “Your legs are so strong for swimming” instead of “You have such beautiful legs.” This can support changes in your teen’s perception.
Remember to positively reinforce when your teen expresses body confidence, and don’t shy away from talking about body image. All bodies are different and it is important teens feel comfortable celebrating their differences.
Here’s to your Well Being!
Natalie Edelhauser, LCSW