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Body diversity

Body diversity

To better uderstand

Teenagers go through many physical changes during adolescence. During puberty, they experience a growth spurt, which is accompanied by changes in their height, body shape, hair growth, skin and face. All these physical changes can trigger a range of emotions in teens. For example, some might feel proud and excited about their new body, while others may be embarrassed or even develop complexes. Even though all teenagers go through puberty, not all experience it in the same way.

It’s important to talk to teens about body diversity, as this will help them to be more accepting of themselves and open to differences in others. The world is filled with many different body types. Bodies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, with different skin types, markings (scars, birthmarks, etc.), hair growth, and more. Each body is unique! And yet, teens are bombarded on a daily basis with messages and images portraying ideal beauty standards. As a parent, it’s important to celebrate differences and help your teen to develop their critical thinking skills when it comes to these standards, which can sometimes be unrealistic.

To better support

Communication

  • Talk to your teen about body diversity. The media tends to fixate on one particular body type, but there are many more in real life!
  • Avoid making comments—positive or negative—about your body and other people’s bodies, including your teen’s. And don’t compare your teen’s looks to other teens.
  • Talk to your teen about the possible impact of making comments about a person’s physical appearance. Educate them about discrimination based on physical appearance and the importance of being respectful of body diversity.

Support

  • Be there for your teen as they go through the different physical changes that accompany adolescence. Give them information about puberty. If your teen tells you that something about their body is bothering them, listen without judging. Offer your support and help your teen find information that will answer their questions.
  • Celebrate the fact that no two people are alike. This will help your teen to accept their own body and be more open to differences in others.
  • Encourage your teen to take action if they witness discrimination based on physical appearance (e.g., voice their disagreement, help the victim, report the discrimination).

Supervision/Guidance

  • Take action if you witness discrimination (comments or actions) based on physical appearance. This is never okay and should not be tolerated.
  • Notice which social media accounts your teen follows and the body images they portray. In an open, non-judgmental way, ask your teen what they think about these images. You can also discuss how these portrayals might affect teenagers’ self-image.

At home

  • Create an atmosphere of respect, openness and authenticity to help your teen blossom as a unique individual and transpose these values to social relationships.

Tips and tricks

Use the images portrayed in social and traditional media as a springboard to talk about body diversity with your teen. You can also use certain family activities, like movie night, as an opportunity to expose your teen to different body types.

In brief

Puberty comes with its fair share of physical changes and can be a challenging time for some teens. It’s important to talk to teens about body diversity, as this will help them to be more accepting of themselves and open to differences in others. Body diversity is a good thing! As a parent, you can help teens to embrace it.

Resources and practical tools

1. For support:

Do you have concerns about your teen’s development or behaviour? Do not hesitate to reach out to a support worker or a healthcare professional:

If you are concerned about a situation, do not hesitate to reach out to a support worker or a healthcare professional:

Community organizations: family centre, youth centre, etc.

Some community organizations offer support programs for parents of teenagers. Call your local organization for information.

School staff members

2. To learn more:

ÉquiLibre (French only)

We also encourage you to read our information sheet on body image.

Latest updates : march 2023

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