House Call: Teens, tweens and body image part 1

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It is shocking to hear that 40-60 percent of American elementary school girls, begin to express concerns about their own weight or shape, starting as early as age six.

However, the statistics are real, and today’s youth are beginning to develop issues with body image at much younger ages, that continue to worsen if left undetected and untreated.

It is important for parents to become aware of the signs of body image issues that may be developing in their children.

Key warning signs include expression of unrealistic beauty standards, negative self-statements, low self-esteem, comparing themselves with peers and/or expressing jealousy of them, extreme need for social acceptance, and pre-occupation with weight, body shape or dieting.

Fortunately, there are steps parents can take to avoid issues with body image in their children and teens. As a start, parents should be mindful of how they talk about their own bodies around their children, and model positive self-statements and behaviors.

Unfortunately, the media plays a significant role in the growing issues with negative body image in kids and teens, with 69 percent of American elementary school girls reporting that photos in magazines influence their concept of the ideal body shape.

Parents can reduce this effect by limiting their kids’ daily exposure to media channels in the home, such as the internet and TV. Parents should also have access to all social media passwords, and monitor their kids’ social media interaction.

Finally, parents should discuss body image with their children and explain the unrealistic nature of beauty standards set forth by the media. If parents notice developing body image issues in their children or teens, it is important to seek professional help as well.

Early intervention and treatment is key, and Cone Health has an exceptional network of behavioral health specialists, dieticians, primary care physicians and other related healthcare providers whom are dedicated to providing proper treatment to individuals in the community dealing with body image issues and disorders.

Spokesperson Background

Kristin Norden is a licensed clinical social worker at Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital’s Outpatient Department.

She has been a social worker for 14 years, completing her undergraduate studies at Indiana University and earning a Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania.