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Parenting in High School: Guiding your teenager through issues of body image

Parenting in High School: Guiding your teenager through issues of body image

Parenting in High School: Guiding your teenager through issues of body image

Issues with negative body image are on the rise in Australia. What can you do to guide your teen through this tough time?

Sleepy teenagers are a common stereotype. Most parents have to drag their grumpy teenagers out of bed in the morning at some point. Isn’t it all part of growing up?

According to The Butterfly Foundation, young Australians have identified body image as one of their top three concerns for the past six years in a row.

Being a teenager can be a tough time of life - they experience skin problems, physical and emotional changes and shifts in hormone levels. Added to this is the prevalence of social media, which heightens comparisons with their peers.

Non-gender specific

It’s not just limited to females; males also struggle with low esteem caused by pressures of body image. In fact, 20% of people in Australia diagnosed with an eating disorder are male.

How can you help?

Finding ways to talk to your teens about positive body image is key to helping them accept themselves. Here are some starting points for parents:

  • Try to avoid talking about diets, size and weight - dieting can be a risk factor for eating disorders.
  • It’s important to be a role model for your teens - this means accepting your own body. Think about the messages children take on without parents being conscious of it.
  • Talk to your child about their looks and how they feel.
  • Encourage them to say positive things to themselves every day, focusing on their positive qualities.
  • Help them set positive health-focused goals rather than weight loss ones.

Eating Disorders

Currently, around 4% of the Australian population is experiencing an eating disorder - close to one million people. Issues with poor body image and dieting can lead to the development of eating disorders, with negative thoughts turning into more serious body dissatisfaction.

There are a range of different eating disorders - among them are:

  • Anorexia Nervosa - characterised by an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming overweight, no matter what their actual appearance. Click here for a full list of signs and symptoms
  • Bulimia Nervosa - symptoms include repeated episodes of binge-eating followed by purging. Sufferers also place emphasis on weight and body shape. Click here for a full list of signs and symptoms.
  • Binge Eating Disorder - eating a large amount of food over a short period and feeling a loss of control during the episode. Click here for a full list of signs and symptoms.

Getting help
For young people experiencing issues, The Butterfly Foundation offers a range of information and services including support groups, online programs, face to face services, and a national helpline staffed by counsellors - call 1800 33 4673. Alternatively, have a look at ReachOut for advice.

For parents needing advice, ReachOut also has a section with information for parents. Alternatively, pick up the phone and talk to the experts at Parent Line on 1300 1300 52.


The Butterfly Foundation: Youth Body Image

For more parenting tips click here

The Schools Parenting Resource is put together by our family specialists who work with families across Sydney everyday.  If you would like to know more about this topic, please fill in our 'Contact Us' form and we'll get in touch.  You can also call our professional Parent Line NSW counsellors on 1300 1300 52 for support 9am to 9pm weekdays and 4pm to 9pm at weekends.

Disclaimer: This article does not give professional advice.  The contents constitute general information of a summary nature of interest and relevance at the time of publication. You should not rely on the contents as professional advice but should seek, formal advice in particular matters relevant to your particular situation.