Virtually everywhere you look these days you will see images of thin models; think models that are screaming out to young girls that this is the way they should look; this is what you need to look like to be happy, to have a boyfriend. What the billboards, magazines, and television ads do not tell you is that while models are thinner than 98% American women and girls, they also have an extremely high rate of having eating disorders and many other emotional disorders that come with that kind of lifestyle.
If you do not remember what life was like as a teenager, let me refresh your memory; everything is about the way you look; everything! Statistics have proven that nearly 90% of teenage girls think about their physical appearance: their body shape. As a parent this may very well concern you, and you might wonder what you can do to help your teen have a positive body image. Here are some things you can consider in helping your teen grow into a strong confident woman.
Who are you?
Who you are plays a large role in who your teenager may portray herself to be. Therefore it is important to ask yourself some basic questions in order to try and understand your teenager.
1.Do you have a positive body image?
2.Do you diet frequently?
3.Do you compare yourself to other women?
It may be embarrassing to have to answer these questions, but if these are hard for you, imagine how your teen must be feeling? If your teen hears you talking negatively about your body, sees you going on diet after diet to meet some “perfect body” criteria; or hears you comparing yourself to other women, they will do the same. As your teen sees your body image improve hers will also.
The Real World
Everyone knows that much of a teenager’s life revolves around the media. Magazines, TV, friends, boys, etc. all play a major role in how they portray themselves. As a parent you need to be aware of the things they are watching, wearing, liking; make yourself available to discuss them and the issues that are out there. Teenagers are not very good at differentiating between reality and fantasy, so as a parent this is where you come in. You can help them sort this out so that the fantasy does not become their reality. Here are some ideas your teen might be thinking about that help create that fantasy:
•You can diet and exercise to look like all the top models and if you do that and still don’t look like them you have failed.
•Boys will only like you if you are thin.
•Movie stars always look great; naturally!
•If you don’t do what your friends are doing, you’re not cool.
Build a Relationship
If you can’t remember your life as a teen try harder. Adolescence is a difficult time for teenagers. They are trying to find their own self and at the same time fit in and be cool. How those two come together we will never know, but it is also a difficult time for mothers and daughters. There is usually a lot of fighting and defiance. As a mother you want the best for your teenager and a good relationship is going to help her feel confident about who she is.
Here are some helpful tips:
•Don’t try to tell her she can and cannot eat. The last thing a teenager needs is someone being the food police officer. Instead of criticizing what she eats, try to buy foods that are healthier for your body; that way you are still sort of controlling the food in the house, but not exactly what she is eating.
•Be active. If you want your teenager to be active, then you will need to try this also. It can be something you do together.
•Be supportive of what she wears. Clothes are a form of self expression and when you criticize her choice of clothes you are insulting who she is trying to be.
•Don’t compare. No one wants to be compared to anybody! Making comparisons will only shut down the lines of communication; which is critical during this time.
Helping your teen have a positive body image can be a difficult thing to do, but well worth the effort. Remember that this is a difficult time for your teen so keep the communication lines open, and try to be supportive.