How Can I Boost My Child’s Body Image?

Peer pressure and relentless photos of ‘perfect’ people on social media can massively impact your teen’s confidence and the way they perceive their body, looks and style. Here are a few ways to boost their self-esteem and encourage positive body image…

It’s always distressing to see our children unhappy with their bodies or looks. We want them to love themselves as much as we love them and to see themselves for the amazing individuals they are. It can be difficult to shift a teen’s negative perception of their own body but there are changes you can make in everyday life to encourage them to love the skin they’re in.

Be A Good Role Model

Our children learn their eating habits and dietary choices within the family unit. Set a great example by eating a varied, healthy diet and keeping treats to a minimum or for special occasions. Avoid yo-yo dieting or fad diets yourself – they rarely work in the long-term anyway but, more importantly, your teen may follow your example and try it for themselves. This can lead to them adopting bad eating habits or an obsessive approach to food which can develop into eating issues.

Try to talk positively about your own body in front of your teen. Those wobbly bits you despair over? Learn to love and accept them, or refrain from vocalising any negative feelings you have about yourself in front of your teen. Talking positively about our own bodies will help to show our children how to accept and embrace our individual shapes and sizes.

Listen And Learn

Give your teen a fair hearing when they complain about certain parts of their body. It can be hard to listen to, especially as you love every bit of them with your whole being, but it’s important to hear their thoughts and react to them. You can sympathise with them and tell them that you understand how worrying these things are to them. This would be a good time to ask your teen if there’s anything you can do to help to alleviate their concerns. If they seem receptive to your help, you might want to suggest they join you for a physical activity, like a walk, or discuss some of the changes that puberty may be having on their body. Talking to your teen will give you the opportunity to learn more about their specific hang-ups and will give you an insight into the kinds of things that are troubling them on a day-to-day basis. 

Get Healthy!

Schedule in regular physical activity as a family every week. It doesn’t have to be a hardcore workout – it can simply be a long walk in the park with the dog, a bike ride or swimming. Be sure to focus on the fun aspects of the activity and talk about how great it is to be doing something enjoyable together. This regular exercise is as important for family bonding as it is for the many health benefits, such as the release of endorphins which leads to positive feelings. The focus of the activity shouldn’t be on weight-loss and should be on encouraging your child to be physically active and to enjoy the incredible things their bodies can do.

Your teen may express an interest in joining a sport’s team which is a brilliant way to boost their fitness and also make new friends. Being a contributing member of a team is also a fantastic way to increase their confidence and self-worth.  

Focus On The Inside

Help your child to see and cherish the important things on the inside that makes them so uniquely special. You can encourage them to write down all the things they like about themselves on sticky notes and fix them onto their mirror as a daily reminder of everything that makes them great. 

Always focus on their achievements, talents and values, rather than their appearance. Giving praise for acing a test or for scoring a goal reinforces the importance of celebrating what’s on the inside, not the outside.  

Monitor Their Media

If your child is like most teenagers then they probably have various social media accounts and spend a lot of time online. This can be worrying for a parent, especially when you hear things like, “I wish I looked like her…” or “I want to get my lips done!”.  Your teen might be constantly comparing themselves to models and celebrities on Instagram and feeling inadequate or unattractive in comparison. It’s important to highlight that social media is not reality: these influencers and celebrities are often cosmetically enhanced or have a full style and makeup team who spend hours prepping them for just one photo. 

You might also want to suggest to your child that they reduce their intake of social media to benefit their own mental health. They may even want to remove the app or account completely if it’s really affecting their mood and self-esteem. 

When To Take Further Action

Sometimes, despite all our efforts, it can seem impossible to change your child’s negative perception of themselves. You should seek help from your GP or talk to their school if you think your teen:

  • Is being bullied.
  • May be self-harming.
  • Has lost or gained a substantial amount of weight in a short period of time.
  • Is being secretive about their eating habits.
  • Has started hiding their body under loose clothing.
  • Seems depressed.

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