Do you think you are too fat? Or too skinny? Researchers suggest that the way you think about yourself affects your sex life! According to a recent study, female high school students who are underweight or who think of themselves as overweight may be at increased risk of engaging in unsafe sexual behavior.
Negative body image among teen girls has become a hot topic of discussion in media headlines. Cover Girls, Supermodels and Superstars have set the standard for beauty while fashion and media industry professionals establish higher and higher standards to achieve. The pressure to be thinner, younger, prettier and sexier has forced many young women into severe psychological turmoil. There are even girls as young as six that are overly concerned about body image and perception.

What is Body Image?
Body image is how someone feels about his or her own physical appearance.
For many, especially young girls in their early teens, body image can be closely linked to self-esteem and self-concept because as kids develop into teens, they become more concerned about how others view them.

Changes during Puberty
It is important to help pre-teens as they encounter the pubescent stage of life. The changes that come with puberty can negatively affect how both girls and boys feel about themselves and their bodies. Some girls may encounter uncomfortable and embarrassed feelings about their developing bodies. On the other hand, some may wish that they were developing much faster.

5 Ways Parents can Aid in Developing Healthy Body Image and Positive Self-Esteem?

1. Listen- (really listen): Ask your teen questions like: How do you feel about yourself? Do you feel you are valuable? How do you think your friends feel about you? How would you describe yourself? Do you like the way you look? If not, why?

2. Compassion: Be sure to empathize with your child and don’t be afraid to evaluate your own self-concept.

3. Affirmation: Giving your child encouragement and affirmation will aid in developing positive self-concept and body image. Affirmation is essential to the development of your child’s self-esteem.

4. Promote Positive Self-Talk: Poor self-image is not usually developed overnight and will not be corrected overnight. However, it is necessary to challenge negative self-talk and promote a pattern of positive self-talk.

5. Expose Negative Media Images: Teach your teens about the deceptive images portrayed through various media outlets. Encourage them to identify airbrushed and visually enhanced images. Help them distinguish the difference between healthy and unhealthy images and/or fashion models.

Because negative body image is suggested to promote teen promiscuity, it would not be such a bad idea to speak to your teens about developing a solid abstinence program as well.

Resources:
Akers AA et al., Exploring the relationship among weight, race, and sexual behaviors among girls, Pediatrics, 2009, 124:e913–e920, accessed Oct. 28, 2009.

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