Communicating with your teen
Few people arrive at parenthood with a perfect relationship with their body, and many unintentionally pass on their negative beliefs to their kids. The good news? While you work on your own journey toward self-love, there’s a lot you can do to ensure the messaging happening at home is body positive.
Model, model, model
Girls not only notice when mom goes on a fad diet or scrutinizes her thighs in the mirror but may also begin to mimic these behaviours themselves.
Tip: Eat together as a family as much as possible, which allows parents to model healthy eating attitudes and behaviours and has been linked to positive body image in young people.
Being a nonjudgmental ear is one of the most powerful things you can do for a teen who comes to you with body image concerns.
Tip: Although it can be tempting to jump right into problem-solving mode, body image researcher Dr. Jessica Alleva says it’s important to first “let your teen know that you’re there for them and you support them and love them regardless of how they look.” Importantly, she adds that solutions should involve helping girls love and accept themselves for who they are and to value their unique traits and achievements.
Naturopathic doctor Erin TeWinkel advises parents not to shy away from conversations about food and body image with their teens, adding, “You’re not going to hit it out of the park with one conversation; it’s the conversations that are happening over and over again that will make an impact.”
Tip: When discussing healthy eating, avoid labelling food as “good,” “bad,” or “forbidden,” or discussing weight or body shape (teens of parents who do so are more likely to diet or binge eat). Instead, focus on the importance of eating whole foods, using nutrition to make our bodies strong, and listening to our bodies’ cues for hunger and fullness.
Parents also play an important role in helping teens become critical consumers of media, asking important questions such as “Where do you think you get the message that you’re not good enough?” and “Why do you think everything on Instagram looks so perfect?”