Dear Your Teen:
Lately, my daughter has been finding fault with almost every part of her body. She’ll complain that her thighs are fat, her stomach sticks out, and her nose is too big, none of which is actually true. She’s now talking about eating only salads for lunch and low-carb dinners because of her bad body image.
This alarms me. My husband and I model healthy eating; we exercise; we don’t talk about dieting. Where is this body hate coming from? And how should we handle it?
EXPERT | Marthe Teixeria
When you hear your 13-year-old daughter complain about her body and talk negatively about her looks, it can be very startling. Given our culture’s emphasis and obsession with being thin and perfect, it is no surprise that many adolescents struggle with self-esteem and teen body image issues. Puberty alone is so complicated. Add the pressure of the media’s unrealistic representation of “attractive” and “sexy,” and it’s no wonder teen girls, like your daughter, want to emulate those images.
As a parent, you want to help your daughter feel happy with herself. So what can you do?
5 Ways to Deal with Teenage Girl Body Image Issues:
1. Be a positive role model.
Mothers play a tremendous role in their daughter’s self-assurance. Girls take to heart what their mother says about their own bodies and comments they make about other people’s bodies. Avoid talking about imperfections or how your cousin would look better 10 pounds lighter. If you model loving your body, your teen will see that as normal and try to do the same.
2. Focus beyond the physical.
Help your child realize that there is so much more to a person than just physical attributes. Let her know what qualities you love about her.
3. Keep an open line of communication.
Make time each day to talk to your daughter about things that are bothering her. If your teen seems receptive, share stories about the things that bothered you when you were a teen.
4. Be a media interpreter.
If you are sitting watching TV together or reading a magazine and you see images that promote unrealistic body types, talk about it with your teen. Discuss how commercials always promote products to enhance women’s “imperfections.” Share that it is impossible to strive to be a body type that does not exist.
5. Share the truth.
Photographs in magazines are photo-shopped and manipulated. Sometimes they even take the body of one model and the face of another and combine then into one. Many teens don’t know that people spend countless hours “perfecting” a picture of their favorite actress.