By Laura Flynn McCarthy
A positive body image is a vital weapon against the development of an eating disorder. You can do a to encourage your teen to feel good about himself.
Arm kids with the facts
Explain what happens to their bodies during puberty. "Teach your kids that we all develop at different ages, undergo changes at different rates, and that what we look like in the end varies tremendously from person to person," says David S. Rosen, M.D., M.P.H., professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and chief of the section of teenage and young adult health. "Most of that variability is genetically determined, and there's nothing anyone can do to change that."
Emphasize healthy eating, not dieting
A recent study of more than 9,000 adolescents found that girls whose mothers frequently dieted were more likely to diet themselves and to frequently think about wanting to be thinner. (Boys, on the other hand, don't seem to be as affected.) "Every time you worry aloud about what you eat, whether your thighs are big or if you'll fit into your bathing suit, you send a message," says Dr. Rosen. "You signal that your self-worth is defined by how you look, and how you look is defined by what you weight." Instead, let your child see you enjoy being physically active and taking good care of your body.
Filter media messages
"Point out that when your kid sees models in a magazine, a team of people have worked on their hair, makeup, and clothes, and that the picture has been airbrushed and shaded to remove flaws," says Allison E. Field, Sc.D., an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and cofounder of the Growing Up Today Study, an ongoing report on adolescents.
FC FACT: A girl's growth spurt typically starts a year after breast budding. Between the ages 9 and 16, girls grow 10 inches and gain 5 pounds annually.
Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the November 1, 2007, issue of Family Circle magazine.