Teens Tips with Alicia Drummond Teen Tips Logo info@teentips.co.uk 07957418126

Resources
for educators & parents

Teens & Body Image

We start to notice ourselves at the age of two.  By four we are comparing ourselves with others but mostly only in terms of external trappings such as clothes and hair.  By five we start to notice our size but at this stage most of us just want to grow bigger.  By six how we think about our bodies starts to be influenced by other factors such as the media, our peers and our family.  We start to internalise the messages we get from these other sources and the positive messages lead to body satisfaction whilst negative messages lead to body dissatisfaction.

Body dissatisfaction can have a negative impact on our self esteem and low self esteem will have an impact on our mental health and wellbeing.   Teenagers with low self esteem are more likely to experiment with alcohol and drugs and experiment to excess.  They are less likely to have healthy relationships because if they don’t value themselves why would they expect others to value them?

Helping your children develop a positive body image is perhaps more difficult now than it has ever been.  In the 21st Century looking good is culturally prized and the messages about how we “should be” are all pervasive.  Boys must be ‘buff’ and girls must be thin is the message that is drip fed through to our children.  They don’t have the maturity to appreciate their finer points like their wonderful empathy skills or sense of humour.  It’s all about how you look and these messages are rarely countermanded in the press or on social media.

So what can we do as parents to help them develop positive body image?

First and foremost we must recognise that we are their primary role models and they are watching us to see how adult is done.  If they see that you are unhappy about your body; that you are always on a diet or over exercising they learn that this is normal.  They need us to celebrate healthy bodies not the size of our bodies.  They need to see us enjoying our food – eating healthily and regularly.  There should be no taboos around food and it should never be used as either a reward or a punishment.   Food is fuel but it is also fun, fulfilling and a means by which we socialise and enjoy time out with family and friends.  

If your child is becoming distressed by their looks telling them they are gorgeous, wonderful and perfect is unlikely to help, a) you are my parent so you are bound to say that and b) it is not how I feel about myself so I reject your comments.  Instead we empathise, “it must be really upsetting and exhausting worrying about how you look all the time” which will help them feel heard and understood.  Gentle challenging comes next, “it seems to me that you find it easier to focus on what you don’t like about yourself than what you do like – do you think it is helpful?”

I think we have to challenge ideas of “normal” and start celebrating our differences.   We need to help them see that they are so much more than kilos on a set of scales.  Help them identify role models who are inspirational because of what they do rather than what they look like.  Even Joey Essex has characteristics beyond his heightened narcissism that have allowed him to get to where he is today.  Help them see that who they are as a person and what they do is infinitely more important than how they look.  Getting them to connect with causes external to themselves is another way of shifting their focus away from their bodies and engaging them in something way more fulfilling than constant self reflection.

I am sure as we head into Mental Health Week which this year is all about body image, we will all learn a great deal to help us negotiate this tricky topic.  So I shall sign off by saying that our children need to learn that the compare and despair culture of social media is a no win game.  When we think we are better than others we feel under pressure to maintain our position and when we think we are worse….  well, what more do I need to say?

We hope you found these tips helpful. Eager for more? Sign up to our newsletter and keep up to date with our latest podcasts, films and blog posts on adolescent mental health.

Sign up to our newsletter

Keep up to date on our latest insights, guidance and tips

Other resources you might be interested in:

Live Online Talks for Parents & Teens to Help You All Through This Challenging Time

In the light of Coronavirus, we are hosting a series of Live Online Talks for parents, giving specific advice to help you through what may be a very challenging few weeks.

How To Keep Your Teenager Entertained During Isolation

There’s so much information on activities for your teen during isolation and here are some suggestions from some of our digging around.

School’s Out

Helping stressed parents through the school shutdown due to Coronavirus.

Sleep Matters

Lack of sleep can lead to anxiety and depression so with cases of adolescents with sleep disorders on the rise we need to tackle this situation.

How To Talk To Your Child About Coronavirus

A pandemic can be a scary time for parents and children alike. So here are some pointers for keeping young people calm and holding a panic-free conversation about Coronavirus.

Teen Tips on Exam Stress

The pressure to perform has never been so great as it is today and, alarmingly, statistics show that rates of self harm and suicide peak in the exam season. Find out how to support your child and bring a sense of balance to the exam process.

Teen Tips on Revision

We all know how easy it is to keep putting off tasks that bore us. The same resistance is felt by many children at revision time. Find out how to help them break things down and crack on.

March 2020 Newsletter

Have a read of our March 2020 newsletter, with insights, tips and advice.

Understanding Eating Disorders

This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week and with an estimated 1.25 million people living with an eating disorder in the UK it is helpful to know what we can do in terms of prevention and support.  It is useful to begin by understanding what an eating disorder is and what it is not.  

Canford and Port Regis Schools Join Our Online Programme

A large focus of our work is with schools, helping staff support the wellbeing of children so we are delighted to welcome these two new schools.

Mental Health Blog Post

Alicia has written a special blog post explaining mental health and mental illness, how to spot the signs of mental distress and what to do to help. She’s also recorded it as a podcast here on our Resources page – do have a listen.

Top Tips For Hosting A Teenage Party

Is your teen desperate to host a party or gathering with their friends? Don’t stress – we’ve put together some Top Tips to help you plan and manage the party so you can provide the right environment for a happy event.