Here are some expert tips for parents when it comes to dealing with negative body image in your teens.
New research shows that over half (52%) of Australian teens are concerned they are too fat or too thin yet 1 in 10 would suffer in silence. 1 in 5 parents are concerned with their teens’ eating habits, but are not aware of how to communicate these issues.
Alarmingly the body image crisis appears to worsen once teens hit 18 with those in the 18-19 year old age bracket more influenced by celebrities and friends than those in the younger age group.
The research was conducted in light of Body Image & Eating Disorders Awareness Week (1-8 September).
Dr. Georgia Karabatsos, Medical Director of the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line, provides her top 5 tips when it comes to addressing negative body image:
1. Model positive eating behaviours
As parents we often say one thing but do something else. Our children pick up on and model our behaviours rather than our words. Live a healthy lifestyle without an emphasis on “dieting”. Eat meals with the family.
2. Model positive body image behaviours
Don’t criticise your own appearance or compare yourself to others. Try to be comfortable in your own body and show this to your children.
3. Talk to your children
Being open and talking to your children about everything including their feelings and their friends. This means being accessible at times they want to talk which is not necessarily when you want to. This also means listening, being supportive and non judgmental.
4. Encourage positive self esteem
Self esteem is an important protective factor. Encourage your child to have many and varied interests and friends. Encourage them in areas that do not place emphasis on body weight and size. Praise your child for good behaviours, actions and for trying rather than for the way they look.
5. Talk about media images
Images in the media are often unrealistic and airbrushed. This leads some to equate beauty with thinness and strive for an unattainable body shape. It is important we discuss this openly and in the cultural context.
And remember, everyone is beautiful!