While self-image issues become more apparent as one grows older, this does not mean that your kids are not vulnerable to them. In fact, children can begin experiencing insecurities about their body image as early as three years of age. When a child does not view themselves in a good light, they will have less confidence in themselves growing up.
Parents and guardians play a huge role in helping children build confidence in themselves and their appearance. A good body image helps them grow up to have good self-esteem, unworried about their bodies and their looks.
When your kids are teenagers, they are exposed to so many things that make them question the acceptability of their appearances. Here is how to guide your teen to have a healthy view of themselves.
Five Ways Parents Should Help Their Teens
It is easy for teens to gain a skewed body image if they are only taught about it by things they see on the internet. Here is how you can help them build confidence as they navigate their teenage years.
1. Watch your words and actions around them.
While things they find on social media have a lot to say about the “perfect body,” you, as their parent or guardian, are their first example of how to perceive their own bodies. How you speak about your body and how you take care of it has an impact on how they respond to their own.
Instead of being fixated simply on the outward appearance, first, teach them to support their bodies by living healthily. This means encouraging them to eat nutritious food and exercise to keep their bodies fit and healthy.
Let them know, too, that enhancements such as wearing makeup and cosmetic dentistry are completely fine, so long as their confidence is not hinged on having these.
2. Discuss realities and misconceptions with them.
Movies, television shows, and social media often portray certain body types as “sexy” and “ideal.” However, the truth is that there is no one kind of body that is correct. What they often see in the media are retouched versions of bodies that do not look like common body types.
Speak to them frankly, but do not lecture them. Understand their thoughts first by asking what they usually see when they go online. Then help them see the disparity between these curated images and real-life bodies they usually see.
It is good to build a habit of distinguishing what is real and what is not, so they learn that their bodies are far from unacceptable.
3. Help them understand and appreciate their uniqueness.
A healthy critique of what they see is necessary but equally important is your child recognizing what makes them special. If their self-perception is making them struggle to see what differentiates them from other people, sit with them and help them notice these little quirks and traits that are solely their own.
Give them some freedom to express themselves in how they dress and do their grooming now that they are teenagers. This allows them to better get to know and assert their own personalities.
4. Guide their social media browsing.
Now that they are older, they are allowed some free rein on how they use the internet. Still, it is wise to guide them on the healthy amount of time they should be spending on social media websites and what to expect from browsing these pages.
You should set limits on the use of devices. On school days, for example, allow them to use the computer for leisure until a certain hour before their bedtime. You can make these hours longer during weekends and vacations.
These boundaries act as precautions so that what they watch and read online does not take up a majority of their time. As a result, these also do not cloud their minds.
5. Be encouraging in your tone when you speak with them.
As a parent or guardian, aside from setting a good example with how you perceive and treat your own body, you also should be mindful of how you talk about bodies at home. Do you casually make comments about people’s weight and looks? Do you talk about being “fat” in a negative manner?
Let go of this language as it leaves an impression on your teen, and it also affects your own body image. Instead, appreciate different body types—from your own to your child’s. Speak well about health and fitness, too, instead of just emphasizing physical appearance.
Allow your teens to grow up with good self-esteem by modeling a healthy self-image to them and practicing open communication about these topics as they grow up.