Most parents have to help their kids through various perceived crises and in terms of health, and well being, you’ll certainly want to be able to help your teen build a healthy body image. Mass media and the onslaught of celeb mania means our teens are growing up in a world where they have been socialised to believe looks are everything. And while taking care of yourself is a good thing to instil in teens, there is a fine line between being body image conscious and obsession. Here are 7 ways to help your teen build a healthy body image:
1. Eat Together as a Family
Yes okay, long gone are the days of the traditional family, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat together. Eating together every evening at the same time will help your teen build a healthy body image. Families who talk together after a busy day instead of chowing down in front of the TV while their brains switch off between grinds of their cheeseburger are not giving their kids the space to connect with them every day. Switch the TV off when you eat.
Talk to your kids all the time about everything; ask their opinion on fashion, what they think about fad diets and other topics that they read about and see in the media. Help your teen build a healthy body image by communicating with them constantly. Keep in touch with them and create an environment that is not judgemental or full of criticism and when your teen has an issue, they will be more open to approaching you.
3. Monkey See Monkey do
Make sure you have a healthy body image yourself. If you are complaining about your weight and body issues and always on a diet, always trying to lose weight and be ‘’skinny’’, your teen is going to learn from what they see. Make sure you strive for a healthy body, do sport and lead a balanced life and your teen will follow suit.
4. Don’t Be Negative
Take stock of what you are talking about and what you say about food, weight and health issues. If you are constantly labeling food as bad or evil and then praising yourself for being ‘’good’’ when on yet another diet, your child is going to start making the same associations with food as you do. Help them build a healthy body image by offering healthy food choices and avoid labelling them as good or bad.
5. Eat Right
Families who eat food that is ingredients and not food that is made up of ingredients will go a long way in helping their teen pave the way for a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Whole food, fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meat, grilled fish and things like nuts, yogurt and berries are the best food choices for your family. Don’t fill your pantry with fast food, high fat food junk and expect your teens to be able to eat balanced meals.
6. Exercise Together
Go hiking, get outdoors, take your kids camping, play tennis, go for a run and get them involved. Kids actually don’t want to lie on the couch all day mainlining cable TV. They want to get out there and into nature, experience new things and have fun in the sun, the rain and the snow. Helping teens build a healthy body image involves doing fun, outdoor activities with your family, encouraging your kids to try different sports and to take their love of sports right through to adulthood.
7. Encourage Awareness
Make sure your kids understand about different body shapes, and encourage them to be aware of discrimination and bullying when it comes to other kids that may be different. Skinny kids are teased just as much as overweight kids are and the more kids that are taught at home that our differences are okay, will limit the amount of damage that name calling does that kids grow up with and take with them for the rest of their lives.
It cannot be stressed enough how important the role of a parent is in helping teens and even pre-teens build a healthy body image. You have to find the balance between what the media feeds them and going so far as to cause body image issues that may result in eating disorders, or a desire to spend every penny on cosmetic surgery. Do you have experience of a teen with body image issues? I’d love to hear how you dealt with it.