Teenagers often face significant pressure to meet strict, unrealistic and harmful ideals around beauty and body build, weight, and shape. The quest for a "perfect" body or appearance can take a heavy toll on a teenager's confidence and physical and mental health. Find out what you can do to help your child develop and maintain a healthy body image and self-esteem.
Body image is how you think or feel about your appearance, your body and how you feel in your own skin. Maintaining a normal and healthy body image during adolescence, a period of major physical and emotional changes, can be difficult. Factors that might harm a teenager's body image include:
Teenagers who have negative thoughts about their bodies are at increased risk of:
In addition, some teenagers might try to control their weight by smoking, taking nutritional supplements to "bulk up," or change their appearance by buying beauty products or getting cosmetic surgery.
Spending time worrying about their bodies and how they measure up can also take away from teenagers' ability to concentrate on other pursuits.
Talking about body image with your children can help them become comfortable in their own skin. When you discuss body image, you might:
Talk about media messages. Social media, movies, television shows and magazines might send the message that only a certain body type or skin color is acceptable and that maintaining an attractive appearance is the most important goal. Even media that encourages being healthy, athletic or fit might depict a narrow body ideal — one that's toned and skinny. Social media and magazine images are also commonly altered. As a result, teenagers might be trying to meet ideals that don't exist in the real world.
Check out what your child is reading, scrolling through or watching and discuss it. Encourage your child to question what he or she sees and hears.
In addition to talking to your teenager about a healthy body image, you might:
If your child is struggling with a negative body image, consider talking to your teen's doctor or a mental health professional. Additional support might give your child the tools needed to counter social pressure and feel good about his or her body.