Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Boosting Your Teen's Self- Image

The Wonder Years
by Linda Shaw

Our son proudly strutted around the room showing off his new athletic shoes. We smiled and told him how good he looked. But Wait… Didn’t we just buy him new shoes at the beginning of the summer? Yes! And since then he grew by three inches (increasing his shoe by two sizes)! Growth spurts are just one of the ‘facts of life’ that bring sudden changes to a teenagers life. As their bodies transform and develop it is important to help your teen maintain both a positive self-image and positive self-esteem.

Why is it more difficult for teens to maintain healthy self-esteem?

Puberty brings on many changes in a teen’s body. At the same time however, teens are also experiencing new social freedoms and friendships. They have a great need to “belong”. This need for acceptance, may cause them to compare themselves to those (they believe) have been accepted by friends and society. I.E. : Actors, sport-stars, popular classmates, commercial models, etc.

As teenagers begin to compare themselves to “retouched” photos, superhero muscles, and other media facades they allow their 'imagined' self-image to succumb to unrealistic expectations. They do not take into consideration their own body’s genetic code that works on a unique timetable and toward predetermined patterns.

Although puberty will be a different journey for everyone, puberty will affect how all teens feel about themselves. According to Dr. L Berman, “research has found that an overwhelming number of young girls aged 11-17 feel such dissatisfaction with their bodies that their number one magic wish is to be thinner.”

How can parents help teenagers create and maintain feelings of self worth?

Teach basic health and social lessons:

Every person is valuable
• Every body is uniquely beautiful
• Our spirit is the core strength of our unique beauty.
* Just as we all have genetic codes, we all have unique gifts and talents
• Weight (even though unique) can pose health risks
• A healthy weight is individually based on height and bone structure
• Overly thin is as unhealthy as being overweight
• An active lifestyle combats health and weight problems

Set an example

Be aware of comments that you say around your teen about others' and your own weight, height, appearance, or physical abilities.
* Make an effPublish Postort to make positive comments
• Be aware that negative comments rub off onto your teen’s attitudes about body image and thus affect their self-esteem.
• Begin a dialogue that promotes ideas of a healthy body images.
* Develop honest personal friendships.

Try focusing on your teens physical abilities and progress made towards goals set.
• Allow them freedom to experiment with different hairstyles, make- up, and fashion.
• Get the family to focus on trying new foods or recreational exercise.
* Don't compare your teen to older siblings, cousins, or friends. If you must compare, compare them to their own growth and development helping them see their journey with pride and success.

A healthy self-image is connected to a healthy self-esteem and visa versa. As teens experience the many changes and emotions of puberty, teens and their families will face many awkward moments. But with positive attitudes and measured moments parents can both help set an example for teens and create dialogues that can strengthen their family ties.

What do you do to help your family members have a positive self-image?

What age should you start helping your child understand the connection between self-image and self-worth?

Do you believe the media distorts the view of self?

Book Referenced. “Talking to your kids about Sex” by Dr. Laura Berman 2009
Dorling Kindersling Limited



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