Parenting Teens: 6 First Steps for Parents of Troubled Teenagers
The Bragging Problem: How Parents Help Kids with 6 Solutions

4 Body Image Tips: How Parents Can Help Young Teens

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A Parent's Criticism Has Power!

Many teens dislike their body image. Parents try to console them but it doesn't work. Today our expert parenting author, Madeline Levine, PhD, is sharing an excerpt from her book, Teach Your Children Well. She is sharing 4 concrete suggestions you can use with your adolescent.

Body dissatisfaction is the outcome of multiple factors:

. Cultural pressures

. Family dynamics

. Genetics

. Psychological vulnerablilities to depression and low self-esteem

None of these factors alone ensures that your young teen will develop an eating disorder.

But because body dissatisfaction is such a pervasive and potentially dangerous fact of life in middle school, here is a list of concrete suggestions that have been shown to protect young teens from falling victim to an unhealthy and unrealistic view of their bodies.

Body Dissatisfaction

1. Do not dwell on weight-yours, your child's or people you see on the street. Teach by your own actions that what you otice in others are things like kindness, character, enthusiasm, and attitude, not looks. Out in the world there are endless messages about how a particular appearance (and a particular product) guarantees happiness. Make your family life a sancturary from corporate brainwashing.

Weight Gain and Puberty

2. Normalize your child's weight gain in puberty. Acknowledge that your child is putting on weight as he or she enters puberty.

Weight gain is always part of early puberty. It does no good for you to say, "Oh homey, you look exactly the same to me."

That's just crazy-making. Better to acknowledge reality: "Yes your body is changing. You're moving into becaoming a man )or a woman). Your body needs those few extra pounds to make that transition.

Father's Role

3. Fathers play a particularly important role in limiting their young teen's body dissatisfaction. Girls in particular benefit from knowing that their fathers still find them attractive.

When your aduther is reaching for a piece of cake, this is not time for dad to say, "Summer's coming up soon, honey." This is an instance where dad's feedback can matter more than mom's.

Worthless Bromides

4. Listen. It is so easy to dismiss young teens concerns about their bodies with bromides about "growing up" and "it's just a stage." Perspective is always good, but don't' jump the gun. Remember, when you're in the middle of emotional turmoil, being told "it's just a state" is worse than useless. It makes kids feel trivialized and judged. (From pages 117-118)


I like Dr. Madeline's suggestions. The fathers' role popped out at me because of the young teens I've counseled over the years whose fathers' criticisized their bodies. Some  of the adolescents ended up with eating disorders. Sometimes the father's criticism seemed so minor but not to the teenager.


Pick up her book, Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success

Cover Teach Your Children Well
             Available at

Let's COMPLIMENT Dr. Madeline for giving so much good advice in her book. It's great to have an expert who can write on so many topics important to parents.

Dr. Madeline Levine

Dr. Madeline Levine


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With warm wishes,

Jean Tracy, MSS

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