Tweens are struggling with body image younger and younger. This is what you need to know about Tween body image and what you as a parent can do to help.
Tween and Teen Body Image Struggles
Tween Body image is becoming a bigger problem than it used to be. There is a link between social media and body image (the way one feels about their body). Nowadays they are exposed to more and more images that have been digitally enhanced. By doing so it creates a ‘perfect’ body. In fact, these images are so common that even adults may have trouble distinguishing real and fake.
The problem is that young teenagers and tweens look at these images without question and come to worry about their own bodies. They become concerned with not fitting with what they think is the ‘right’ shape. This can lead to some serious issues with body image confidence, not to mention more dangerous conditions like bulimia or anorexia.
Because the media seems to be so cavalier about this effect on young people, it falls to parents to discuss body image with their children and foster a healthy relationship. As we all know, we all struggle with accepting our bodies from time to time, but finding ways to love ourselves as we are is the best way to find happiness.
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Help Your Tween Feel Good About Themselves with Simple Things
One example is your teeth. Many tweens and teenagers worry about their teeth, especially if they are crooked. But with a trip to the orthodontist, things can straighten out in no time. Many kids have braces at this age. So within a few years, your tween will have the straight teeth they always wanted. With the right orthodontic treatment, there will be no further problems with their teeth or jawline.
We tend to think of girls as being more at risk than boys when it comes to body image. However as time goes by, this is increasingly untrue as boys feel just as pressured to look and act a certain way. Simple things like going to the hairdressers for a new ‘do can make a real difference to their confidence. Helping tweens deal with any acne will also give them a boost in confidence. Enroll them at a gym or schedule a session with a personal trainer for some exercise or weight training tips.
Similarly, shopping for clothes together can be a positive experience. Make sure that you compliment them on everything that looks good. Remember that anything that doesn’t fit well or look good is the fault of the clothes and not the wearer! Shopping should be fun so mix in shopping for accessories and other bits and pieces as well as clothes. This takes the emphasis off the body and will ensure at least one success in the day.
Be Honest About Tween Body Image
Body image is a difficult topic for anyone because most of us struggle with it at some point. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t encourage a positive attitude with your kids. The most important thing is that you are honest about how you feel as well.
Many teenagers feel isolated in their emotional responses. They struggle to communicate with their parents on issues that are sensitive. Your job as a parent is to let them know that you too worry about this stuff from time to time as well. This kind of honesty helps to normalize their feelings. Not only that, but it helps them to understand that they are not the only ones worrying about how they look.
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Social Media and Body Image
All that we see on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other forms of social media are what people want us to see. It’s important that we help our tweens and teens recognize that what we are seeing is what someone wants us to see, their best self. We are just seeing a snapshot of their lives, we don’t see what is outside of picture range. I know a teen girl who doesn’t feel she measures up because of what she sees posted on Instagram. It’s important for us to teach our tween and teen girls and boys that they are worth more than the picture they see on a screen.
Since the media doesn’t seem so worried about the images young kids are exposed to, you should take it upon yourself to point out how unrealistic they are. This picture of Kate Moss and her daughter may have been taken and edited back in 2011, but it is still a great example of how an overzealous editor can air-brush fingers so much that they vanish altogether. Showing your kids this picture and laughing about it could help them to open up more about how they feel about the images they see all the time and start a conversation with you. Then all you need to do is listen.
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Focus on Healthy Attitudes and Habits to Promote a Healthy Tween Body Image
If you have an overweight child, it is all too easy to criticize them for what they should or should not be doing. In addition to that, it may become easy to start controlling their lifestyle to get them to live healthier. While this is a natural parental response, it is much more likely to damage their self-esteem than it is to help them actually lose weight or achieve a healthy lifestyle.
Instead of giving instructions or focusing on their weight, try to focus on healthy attitudes to food and encourage good habits. Children who feel that their parents are judging them tend to be at greater risk of developing mental health issues.
Be An Example
A great example might be to start an exercise routine together to get fit together with the added benefit of incidentally losing excess fat. At this age, a tween should be thinking about how to foster a healthy lifestyle and they will be in a great position to get into good habits. Exercising together is a good way to bond but suggesting teams they can join will also widen their circle of friends and give them more social time.
You should also talk to them about nutrition and which foods provide what. Telling them about what is in different foods in a non-judgemental way will help them to make good decisions about what to eat. For example, vegetables are brilliant for getting a good variety of vitamins which help with maintaining a healthy body and immune system; dairy products are ideal for getting calcium for strong bones. Rather than ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, talking this way will show the benefits of some foods without demonizing others.
Balance and realism are key to having body confidence and you can help your tween develop both. Talking honestly will encourage them to trust you with their sensitivities and illustrate that they are not the only ones worrying about their changing bodies. Everyone struggles at some point but having someone to talk to always help.
LOOKING FOR MORE IDEAS ON HOW TO HELP YOUR TEEN?
- Living in Peace with Teens – Here’s How
- How to Connect WIth Your Teenager in 15 Easy Ways
- Teenage Hygiene Checklist for Teaching Tweens and Teenagers
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Michele is a Family Life Educator. She is a mom to 5 kids and loves helping others strengthen their families! When she is not blogging she is spending time with her family and running around drinking Diet Coke trying to get everything done!