Helping your teenager with self-esteem and body image

The truth is, many of us are in abusive relationships with our bodies, internally bullying ourselves every time we gain a few extra pounds and externally jeopardizing our health with fad diets. Poor body image is passed on from mother/father to daughter/son.

Low self-esteem, sexual promiscuity, smoking, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse and the list goes on, are all factors in how our thought process about ourselves manifests in our day-to-day life. When you have a teenager, your own issues need to be addressed so he or she does not suffer.

Self-esteem and body image are often at their lowest during teenage years. Youth can feel awkward, self-conscious and isolated and need all the support from their family.

Be careful what kind of a role model you are being for your teenager.

Our parents are powerful role models in our life. Chances are, if you're not happy with your body or the way you look, your daughter or son will copy your actions. If your teen observes you looking in the mirror saying, 'I look awful. I look fat. I need to diet,' then she/he is going to learn and mimic those very things. As adults we need to be aware of the impact our words have and the messages we are sending out to young people. Make sure you are modeling self- acceptance and self-confidence in your own life.

Encourage your child’s hobbies and talents.

Even if you don't think your daughter will be the next Oprah or your son the next Ed Sheeran, don't discourage them from discovering their unique talents and abilities. Instead of trying to protect them from getting disappointed, just be supportive and understand that a young person may have to explore several activities and fail a few times before truly finding their niche.

Inner bestie, inner bully.

Your internal dialogue is the continuous conversation that you have with yourself about everything that happens to you. Your daughter or son may be saying to himself or herself: "I'm over weight," “I am not buff enough. “I hate my legs," "My nose is too big,” To combat this, they could adopt an internal dialogue that says, "I'm going to accept myself. I'm going to accept myself as I am.” You can help them to do this by encouraging them to write something positive about themselves every day. Do this as a family exercise. It will not only bring you closer together but will show your teen that believing in yourself is okay. Recognizing and modifying negative thoughts about themselves, making a positive contribution (such as volunteering), exercising regularly, and adjusting unrealistic expectations that she/he has set, are just a few strategies that may boost your teens self-esteem.

Educate your child about the media.

With so much attention placed on appearance and the prevalence of photoshoot images in the media, a teenager trying to understand what a healthy body looks like can be a massive challenge. Its vital that young people have positive body images as this will directly impact on a young persons self esteem, confidence and overall feelings about themselves and their place in society.

Young people are bombarded with media images every day. Empowering young people with skills and knowledge that enable them to challenge what they see and the underlaying messages and straegies used by media, can help them to avoid taking on board these images so literally.

What is the most important goal for a parent?

The most important goal for a parent should be to help a teen discover their authentic self, the part not defined by their looks or achievements. 

Marina Passalaris is the Founder and Director of Beautiful Minds Australia. A life skills program dedicated to the education and empowerment of teen girls. Beautiful Minds is run Australia wide and educates thousands of teens every year. Marina is the Author of Beautiful Minds, a guide book for teen girls.