Peer pressure is a fact of life. As a child becomes a teenager, your opinions begin to slip into the background and those of their friends take center stage. When that happens, you’ll want your child to be well-equipped with tools to keep their opinion of themselves high even in the face of the opinions of others.
Besides friends, the media and society are all around us. They broadcast their view of what “beautiful” is to the world. It is easy for adults to get caught up in that. Just look at the number of adult cases of anorexia and bulimia. It is not as common as teenage cases but it is there for men and women.
If adults have a hard time with self-esteem and body image then teens will too. There are so many hormones raging at the same time that their bodies are changing by leaps and bounds. The hardest part to accept is that the internal changes are going on without their permission. Psychological conditions like anorexia and bulimia give back a measure of control over their bodies that many teens crave.
But, there are other ways to exert that control and it all begins with you, the parent. It begins in early childhood. Right from the start do what you can to teach your child that they are beautiful and validated. Here are some tips.
- Offer positive feedback to your teen – When they buy a new outfit, complement them on their choice even if you don’t much like the color. That is a personal preference and they are allowed to express themselves and their style.
- Promote physical activity – This doesn’t have to be structured exercise. Instead spend time each day doing an outdoor activity as a family. Your child will get used to physical activity and see it as a way to have fun and release stress in the process. Consider an after dinner walk with the family to discuss how your day has been.
- Offer healthy food choices in the house – When healthy food is always on the menu, there is no reason to look at food in a negative light. Sure, it’s okay to eat sugary sweets in moderation and they can learn that within the household.
- Teach your children about food – Most kids love to cook. It gives you a chance to take a break from fixing meals and also to teach your child about the components of foods. Allow them to taste the natural flavor of fresh vegetables and fruits without added condiments. Discuss how fats add empty calories but a few are fine in moderation.
- Avoid negative talk about food – This can make your child feel guilty every time they eat a certain food. It can result in them still eating it but hiding it from you. That sets them up for negative body images of themselves.
- Empower them – No matter what they want to do, they can do it if they put their mind to it. This means breaking into a “boys only” sport or running for student body president. Instill confidence in them and their abilities.
- Discuss societal views – Teens have questions. The best place to get answers is from you. Talk about how they feel towards society’s idea of perfect and normal. Let them know that they are allowed to be an individual and inject their style into society.
- Get them involved in the community – Taking part in empowerment seminars, youth organizations and community service helps them to see and be a part of the world outside of them. By focusing on others and helping them, you increase good internal feelings about who you are. It helps to put all of life into a realistic perspective.
Body image is a psychological picture of who you are. As a parent, strengthening that view from the beginning is important for your child. It can also help you to let go of any negative self-image issues that you might have. A child is a blank slate. Encourage them to be all they can be and happy in the skin they are in.