The way that your teen sees and views himself or herself is integral to their self esteem. You should not dismiss or overlook your child's body image, especially if it is negative, as just a "phase." While it is true that just about every child experiences times where they feel that they are too fat, too skinny, too tall or too short, but when it begins to affect other aspects of their life, it is time to take action. There is a fine line and sometimes it can be difficult to spot a negative body image, but if you know what you are looking for, you can spot it and catch it before things get out of hand.
Spot the Signals of Poor Body Image
Poor body image is often connected to depression, but it can two different ways. The depression can be a result of the poor body image, or it can be the cause. Some signals are very obvious, but others may be more subtle. A smile can fool you so don't discount someone who laughs off things all the time. Humor can be a weapon to hide true pain and insecurity. A child who seems to constantly feel "fat" or "ugly" may have a problem with body image. Listen to the child remain aware of what they are saying as well as showing you.
The Sad Little Girl
Girls seem to have more of an issue with body image than boys and the media plays up girls' obsessions with body image more than they do boys. However, a girl with a poor body image can end up with an eating disorder or unhealthy eating habits such as crash dieting or fasting. Even the bubbly, giggle girl can be quite troubled down deep inside. Look into her eyes and listen to her words. You can often pick up on subtle hints at a sadness or discontent with the way that she looks. Read her writing assignments at school and things that she writes at home. Those can be quite revealing.
Boys feel it Too
Boys can have poor body image too. Boys may show signs similar to girls, but you may notice more of a withdrawal socially. Watch your child for the clues that may reveal that he does not feel good about his appearance.
The media is full of negative messages about how girls and guys should look. The magazine racks at the supermarket are riddled with photos and stories blasting this actress or that celebrity for having a little cellulite or for not looking absolutely perfect in a bikini. These are dangerous messages that our children are receiving, but they are out there and our children are exposed to them daily. As a parent, you can combat those negative messages by teaching your child healthy eating habits, encouraging them to exercise daily (works twofold: keeps them fit and raises the mood) and helping them have confidence in their abilities and in themselves. But there may be a time where the problem is too great and you may need to seek professional help for your child. Whatever you do, do not hesitate! Get your child the help that they need. Most of all, though, just love them with all your heart and let them know it.
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