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5 tips for supporting the young person in your life with body image

Canada’s most common New Year’s Resolution this year — for teens and for adults — was to lose weight. While setting health-related goals can be positive, framing them negatively and setting unrealistic goals can set us up for failure. The new year is a time for self-reflection and renewal, but too often for teens in Canada this can turn into a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions, often related to their bodies. Some teens may have made resolutions that they may not be able to keep, and others may not have the necessary tools or resources to start boosting their own self-esteem.

Good body image and self-esteem starts at home, and at Kids Help Phone we know that by helping young people recognize their inner qualities and by focusing on their accomplishments, we can all help teach kids that what is really important about them has nothing to do with their size, shape or weight. You can create an environment that promotes self-acceptance and positive self-esteem and help young people feel comfortable in their own skin, positively affecting their confidence, thoughts and behaviours.

Here are five things you can do to support the young person in your life with body image:

1. Communicate. Explicitly tell the young person that you’re open to talking about what’s happening in their lives — both the good and the bad — while respecting that they may not want to disclose everything.

2. Normalize and celebrate diversity. Help the young person to understand that it can take time to adjust to the changes in their body and that people come in all shapes and sizes. Encourage them to accept themselves and others the way they are.

3. Be mindful of how you talk. The way you talk about body image and food can make a lasting impact on the young person in your life. Think about the messages that the young person is learning from you related to body image and self-acceptance. When you are more accepting of your own body, you make it easier for young people to accept themselves and their own bodies as well. Taking the #NoYearsResolution challenge together can be a step in the right direction!

4. Educate. Television, magazines, music videos, movies and marketing all influence our perceptions and standards of physical beauty, even though many of the images they portray are unrealistic. Encourage the young person to learn about the ways that the images they see can be digitally manipulated and airbrushed. Encourage the young person not to compare themselves to the pictures they see in the media.

5. Tell them about Kids Help Phone. Kids Help Phone’s professional counsellors are always here for young people ages five to 20 struggling with any problem, big or small. If a young person in your life needs to talk, they can call 1-800-668-6868 or visit www.kidshelpphone.ca.