Six Tips to Help Teens Overcome Their Image Problems

The number of adolescents experiencing body dissatisfaction has increased. Social media is partly to blame. Here's what you can do to help your child.
Six Tips to Help Teens Overcome Their Image Problems

Last update: 19 July, 2022

Adolescence is a stage of life that brings with it many changes on both a physical and psychological level. Indeed, teens frequently experience insecurities about their own bodies, and parents play an essential role in overcoming these. In fact, with the necessary help, young people can overcome these situations and accept themselves. In this article, we’ll give you some tips to help your own teens overcome their image problems.

Promoting good self-concept and self-esteem in childhood and adolescence lays the foundation for emotional balance in adulthood. Although it can be a challenge, with perseverance and patience it’s possible to educate teens in this respect.

Image problems in adolescence

We live in a society that tends to idealize certain types of body, face, hair, etc. In fact, we often see people who achieve fame and fortune just by projecting certain images, which capture our attention.

With the rise of social media, beauty has risen to a top position in the hierarchy of the variables of influence. Indeed, increasingly more people are going viral on TikTok or appearing on Instagram for the simple reason that they meet certain physical standards of ‘beauty’.

Furthermore, young people are the main consumers of social media. Therefore, if only due to the frequency and intensity of their exposure, they’re most vulnerable to the effects we’re talking about.

Richards, Caldwell, and Go (2015) published a systematic review on the impact of social media on children and young people. Their evidence indicated that social media has a significant effect on their mental health. This especially occurs in areas such as self-esteem and psychological well-being.

Sad teenager looking in the mirror
Influencers can condition the body image that teens have of themselves.

The role of parents in the self-esteem of young people

Although it may not seem like it, parents serve as role models for their children. Therefore, your actions, attitudes and words have an important impact on your teens.

Imagine the case of a mother who constantly talks about being ‘fat’ and going on diets. In addition, she tells her daughter to eat fewer sweets or less fat because she’s rather ‘chubby’. What kind of impact might this have on her daughter’s self-esteem?

Or, a father who tells his son that he’s too ‘skinny’. Repeatedly, he tells him that he should be stronger because that’s what ‘a man should look like’. This could motivate their child to engage in strenuous exercise routines and feel dissatisfied with their body.

If we add to these parental behaviors, the pressure of social media, and the teens’ own social environment, self-image problems could easily arise. Therefore, parents, with their own actions, can help their teens to overcome their image problems.

How to help teens overcome their image problems

After reading the above, it’s easy to realize the influence that we, as adults, have on the youngest members of society. In light of this fact, here are some tips to help you be a positive role model for your children.

1. Lead by example

If you want your teen to be kinder to themselves, start by doing it with yourself. After all, although you may no longer be the only reference for them, you’re still a really important role model.

In this sense, you can share with them what you like and don’t like about your own body. Consequently, they’ll be able to count on a real model who’s close to them. In fact, they’ll be able to imitate you when managing their feelings concerning their own body image.

2. Talk to them about beauty stereotypes

It’s important for young people to understand that beauty is a subjective construction. For example, something in our culture that’s considered ‘beautiful’, in other regions of the world might be extremely different. We can summarize this idea in the popular phrase that claims: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

In addition, you can help your teen recognize the artificiality of the images they see on the Internet. Explain to them that the vast majority of models and influencers resort to makeup tricks and photo editing to look the way they do.

3. Strengthen their qualities

Reinforce the kinds of initiatives that expose their qualities. For instance, your child may believe that, in order to be successful and liked, they need to focus on their physical appearance. However, you must let them know that success and happiness don’t only depend on physical beauty.

Talk to them about the other qualities they have. For instance, their intelligence, charisma, or kindness. The idea is that they expand their self-concept and see beyond the labels of ‘handsome’ or ‘ugly’.

4. Explain what’s happening to them

Many teens feel bad about their bodies as a result of the transformations they’re going through. These changes can make them feel strange when they used to feel so comfortable.

As you well know, the process of maturity entails a whole series of changes on a physical level that aren’t always to the liking of those who suffer from them. Despite this fact, it’s a perfectly natural process. In fact, many of the changes that occur and upset teens end up correcting themselves. Informing them of this fact will help ward off their feelings of discomfort.

5. Regulate their exposure to social media

Social media can be beneficial tools for personal growth. However, it all depends on the use made of it.

A responsible use of social media implies regulating the amount of time dedicated to it. Similarly, helping teens to overcome their image problems requires monitoring the content they’re exposed to.

A study conducted by Woods and Scott (2015) evaluated the influence of social media on the health of young people. It determined that those who spent more time on it and who were more emotionally involved experienced greater self-esteem problems. Other conditions were observed in their sleep habits and anxiety traits.

On the other hand, there are different series and movies that tend to sexualize the image of adolescents. This type of content promotes the idea that young people are sexual objects for the pleasure of others.

Of course, the above doesn’t mean that sexuality should be a taboo subject. It all depends on how you look at it. In fact, there are other programs that address the issue of sexuality in adolescence, without resorting to arguments that sexualize them.

Teenage girl looking in the mirror
Beauty standards in social networks affect the self-esteem of teens.

6. Seek professional help

In certain cases, image problems in teens can generate deep emotional imbalances. If you feel that your child’s conflicts, far from being resolved, have intensified or are reproducing over time and are affecting their health, seek professional help.

Indeed, specialized psychological care will identify the causes of their problems and ensure they receive appropriate treatment.

Finally, remember that asking for help doesn’t make you a bad parent. After all, you’re only human and it’s only natural that certain circumstances may exceed the resources you have available to face them.

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  • Richards, D., Caldwell, P. H., & Go, H. (2015). Impact of social media on the health of children and young people. Journal of paediatrics and child health, 51(12), 1152-1157.
  • Woods, H. C., & Scott, H. (2016). # Sleepyteens: Social media use in adolescence is associated with poor sleep quality, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Journal of adolescence, 51, 41-49.