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TEEN TALK: Tackling body image issues with your teen

TEEN TALK Tackling body image issues with your teen.jpg
TEEN TALK Tackling body image issues with your teen.jpg
Posted at 11:33 AM, Sep 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-12 08:07:52-04

MIDWAY, Fla. (WTXL) - On this segment of Teen Talk, we're focusing on body image and why some teens struggle with it more than others.

Family Therapist Jane Marks joined us to share some tips:

Question: I have a set of twins the same physical size, but one of my twins is very concerned about body image. How do I address this so that it doesn't become a bigger issue than it has to? My second twin wears long sleeves and long pants to cover up her body. As her mother, I see her as having a very fit body. Can you give us your guidelines on body image?

Answer: Mothers are the first and most significant female role models in developing daughter's lives. They are faced with the difficult challenge of modeling positive feelings toward food, eating and body image. So where do you begin?

1. Model a positive body image. Our culture supports the importance of thinness. The key is that mothers feel good about their own bodies and they project this to their budding adolescents.

2. Be careful about the terms, diet and fat. What we know about young girls between the ages of 6 and 10 is that even at that age they are very conscience of being fat. Be positive. Never make remarks about your teen's body. 

3. Encourage exercise. Studies show that teens have better body image, regardless of their weight, when they participate in sports.

4. Eat together. Family meals lead to teens who are better adjusted and less likely to participate in risky behaviors and research shows that eating together nurtures positive mental health.

5. Stress a sense of belonging. Studying your heritage, going back and looking at old family portraits, looking at how much a teen resembles a family member makes a lot of sense.

6. There is a term called "self-attuned eating". This is where you begin to teach your youngsters to pay attention and trust their feelings of hunger as opposed to fullness. This happens certainly in more serious cases, so it's okay to talk about how food is managed.

7. Be mindful of the fact that Instagram, Snapchat and other messaging apps expose kids to a constant drum beat of bikini bodies, six pack abs. This contributes to body dissatisfaction. How do you combat media's harmful effects? Teach your teen to become media literate. Use real examples.

8. Emphasize your teen's other qualities. Support your teen's talents and skills that have nothing to do with the way she looks. Sports, volunteer activities, passions, pursuits, focus on health over looks whenever you can.

9. Teach self-affirmations. Accept what's not perfect. Say helpful things, in other words, teach your child to say helpful things.

10. Finally, signs to look for that may indicate a significant problem in this area would include, rapid weight loss, compromised concentration, change in eating patterns, change in hygiene, isolation and depression or anxiety. Be mindful of these red flags.

If all of these topics are part of the ongoing conversation that you have with your family, then you are doing a terrific job of helping to nurture positive body image. If your daughter still continues to wear the clothes then as always, we say, seek professional help.