No age group is more preoccupied with body image than teenagers. This is the stage of life where they become more self-aware as they struggle to fit into social circles. Many teens relentlessly criticize how they look, exaggerating their negative qualities while overlooking the positives. As a concerned parent, you can do several things to support your teen through this phase. Here are just a few of the ways parents can help teens who are struggling with body image issues.
Be a Listener
Although you want to fix the problem with constant praise and reassurance, sometimes it is better just to listen to your teen’s concerns about his or her appearance. You might hear surprising things, such as anxiety about fuzzy eyebrows, when you thought the worry stemmed from a prominent nose. Find out what really matters to your teenager by hearing them out. Ask questions and reiterate key points for clarity.
If fashion consciousness is part of the problem, plan a shopping trip to help your teen find a couple of flattering and fashion-savvy outfits. You might want to first browse teen fashion blogs or the websites of stores that specialize in teen designs that your child will want to wear. Avoid being judgmental about unessential things like color or style. Reserve your concerns for clothes that may be revealing or unflattering, and when you speak up, do so in a gentle, loving way. Help your teen look for clothes that can downplay bodily flaws, like the right jeans for heavy thighs or a top that doesn’t draw attention to a neck peppered with skin moles.
Provide Medical Support
Self-image concerns sometimes stem from physical or biological issues that can be medically treated, like atopic dermatitis disease, which is a form of eczema. Talk to a professional to address these skin conditions and help the teen feel more naturally attractive. This will help them feel more comfortable around their peers and in public. Contact lenses or laser surgery may enable your teen to skip eyeglasses if that is particularly bothersome to them.
Emphasize the Total Person
Teenagers are very self-conscious and want to make a good impression with their appearance. Downplay negatives and look for opportunities to accent and compliment positive features of your teenage son or daughter, like silky hair or a sense of humor. It might help to mention that many celebrities lack classic beauty and yet are considered highly attractive due to their charismatic charm and distinctive features.
Supporting your teen during this challenging time can guide him or her through it gently and successfully. Be resourceful but not pushy. Remember that, despite your best efforts, teens often may still experience anxiety and stress during this part of their lives. Just help them weather the storm.