Aug. 25, 2021, noon
Bringing up your concerns with your teen’s body image can be a tense topic. This post aims to help parents discuss the challenging topic of body image with their teens. This conversation can be important for all young people who are learning how to love their bodies as they change and grow. It is especially important if you suspect that your teen is struggling with body image and self esteem.
Start the conversation with validation. Create an atmosphere of safety and openness by telling them they are not alone in what they are feeling.
You could say something like:
“It’s normal to have some bad body image days, some days where you don't feel so comfortable in your body.”
Go on to say:
“It's important that you know that your worth isn’t determined by your appearance. Regardless of how you look, you are still worthy of people’s time, attention and respect. I hear that you would like to have the “perfect” body. What I think you might mean is that you would like to feel comfortable in your body. We can feel comfortable in our bodies regardless of their shape or size. Your body is not something to feel shame or guilt about, your body does so much for you and serves you in so many ways.”
The conversation can be concluded by reinforcing the teen’s own unique qualities and strengths that are not related to appearance.
You can encourage your teen to try out the following practical strategies if they are struggling with body image.
There are some do’s and don’ts for promoting positive body image with our teenage children. As a parent, don’t comment on a stranger's body, your own body or your teen’s body. Even if you are making a compliment, remain neutral about bodies.
Lastly, the most important tip of all — model positive body image. Teens absorb so much about how they feel about their body from how parents feel about theirs. Remove all “diet” language from the family conversations. Modelling acceptance of your own body will help your teen accept theirs.
Dana Etherington is an Occupational Therapist, Psychotherapist and is the owner of Cedar Tree Therapy. Cedar Tree Therapy is a virtual psychotherapy practice that serves clients 13 and up all across Ontario with anxiety and body image challenges. Dana’s eating disorder experience comes from working in adolescent residential eating disorders treatment centres.
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