Do you have a tall teen? Or a short teen? Whichever he or she is, your teenager is probably unhappy at some point with his or her height.
I’m tall for a girl. I spent my teen years being asked if I played volleyball, despite my lack of athleticism, and I wore ballet flats at my wedding.
My teen boy, eh, not so much. In a massively unfair irony, he didn’t receive my statuesque build.
Of course, teens will always compare themselves to others, be it on looks, intelligence, or athletic talent, notes Sheri Gazitt, parent educator and founder of Teen Wise Seattle. But unlike some traits, there is literally nothing you can do about your height (and many other physical characteristics for that matter).
Still, some teenagers struggle with aspects of their physique.
“It sometimes happens that teens come to their parents with concerns about their body and how they look. And those concerns can be really specific. They may say ‘I hate my nose. I can’t stand my ears. My lips are too thin,’” explains Lisa Damour, Ph.D., author of Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.
How to Help Your Teen Cope With Their Looks
1. Validate their anxiety.
Steer clear of a lecture or invalidating their feelings, say both Damour and Gazitt.
“The first thing you want to do when responding to your teen is not critique them for having this anxiety. They come by it honestly and if you respond to them saying, ‘Why are you so superficial’ or ‘What are you talking about? There is nothing wrong with you,’ you are not going to get the conversation off on the right foot,” explains Damour.
Instead, validate the concern. “Say, ‘Look, I understand you don’t love the shape of your lips. We all have parts of our body that are not exactly the way we wish they were,’” suggests Damour.
2. Help them put it in perspective.
Then help put it in perspective. Maybe dad has big ears or grandma is extra petite. Those are the characteristics that make us unique and that loved ones often appreciate the most.
“Your teenager will probably not love this response,” adds Damour.
“But our job as a parent is to help them keep perspective and it is very hard for teenagers to maintain perspective on things relating to appearance and attraction.”
3. Accentuate the positive.
It’s also helpful to hone in on what teenagers do like about themselves, notes Gazzit, from physical appearance to character strengths and skills. “Your goal is for them to appreciate their amazingness.”
So whether you have a tall teen or a short teen, parents can find a silver lining either way. I can’t speak for the shorter boys, but I can help the tall girls out there. A lifetime avoiding heels Magic.