A new national survey shows that the majority of teens and teens are self-conscious about their appearance.
Nearly two-thirds of parents who answered the survey said their children were insecure about some aspect of their appearance, while one in five said their teen avoided certain situations, such as photography, because they feel too self-conscious, According to the CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Survey of Children’s Health at Michigan Health University.
Most of the teens’ findings were not surprising, said report co-author Dr. Susan Wolford, associate professor and co-director of the Mott Poll survey at CS Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan. What surprised Wolford, she said, was that body image issues appeared in younger children as well.
“We found that negative messages reach even young children,” Wolford said. “One hopes that it will be possible to enjoy childhood without a negative body image.”
Negative body images can have broader consequences. “We know that having a poor self-image can affect self-esteem and can ultimately affect emotional well-being,” Wolford said.
One way that parents can help, Wolford said, is by telling children that who is on the inside is more important than how they look.
Some parents may inadvertently send the wrong message to their children by complaining about their outward appearance, obsessing over weight, wrinkles or even a strange unexpected pimple.
To get a closer look at how teens and teens see their bodies, Wolford and her colleagues inquired about 1,653 parents who had given birth to a child between the ages of 8 and 18 in April of this year.
The most common causes of a negative body image are: weight (31%), skin conditions such as acne (32%) and hair (27%). Fewer parents cited height (17%) and facial features (12%) as the most insecure things their children felt about. Nearly one in five parents of girls said their children feel ashamed of their breasts.
Fathers of teens were more likely than fathers of younger children ages 8 to 12 to report that their children had problems with body image: 73% of teenage girls and 69% of teenage boys compared to 57% of younger girls and 49 % of younger boys.
Researchers have found that poor body image can affect children’s lives. Among parents who said their children were self-conscious about their appearance, 27% said they felt it had a negative effect on their children’s self-esteem, and 20% said it affected their children’s desire to participate in activities, with 18% avoiding portraying them. . Some parents (8%) said they noticed their children restricting what they eat because they felt ashamed of their bodies.
Nearly a third of parents (31%) said they had heard their child make negative comments about their appearance.
One in three parents said their children had been treated inappropriately because of their appearance: 28% by other children, 12% by strangers, 12% by other family members, 5% by teachers, 5% by by health care providers.
Social media has been cited as a cause of children’s self-awareness, with parents blaming social media twice as often as those attributing the problem to personal interactions.
The most common response of parents when hearing about vile comments was to talk to their children about it. Some parents responded by keeping their children away from the person who made the unkind comments (33%) and others said they had spoken with the person (27%).
Parents should be aware that not all young people will talk openly about their body image issues, said Dr. Wendy Neal, MD, medical director of the Center for Adolescent Health at Mount Sinai in New York. Neil, who was not involved in the new study, said parents should pay attention to what their children say about their bodies.
“Sometimes we can be busy and busy and we can miss the signals,” Neil said. “But it’s really important to listen to and acknowledge their feelings and not ignore what young people are expressing.”
Neil advises parents to “reinforce the idea that beauty comes in many shapes and forms and there is no perfect appearance and that’s okay. Also, it’s important to talk about health rather than looks and weights.”
“We want to talk,” Neil said. We must encourage children to lead a healthy lifestyle and we must do so with them. Modeling is really key.”
The numbers of children with body image issues are likely to be higher than the study reported, said Joseph McGuire, a child psychologist and assistant professor of psychology and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“Teenagers may not want to go to their parents,” he added. “They go through a lot of physical changes at that time in life and it can be hard for them to say they are uncomfortable about their bodies.”
McGuire, who was not involved in the new research, said that when parents suspect a problem, it’s best to bring up the topic in a positive way. He said, “You might start by asking, ‘What do you like about yourself.'” Or if you notice that your child wears a lot of makeup, you can say, ‘I think you’re beautiful without it.’
McGuire said the signs of body self-awareness may be different in boys. “Boys may engage in disruptive behaviors, they may act like a class clown, to distract. It’s a different coping strategy, but the same level of discomfort.”
McGuire said if parents are concerned and don’t feel they can help their child, they shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist for an evaluation. Related:
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