To better understand
With its multiple physical and psychological changes, adolescence is a period during which accepting and being satisfied with one’s appearance takes on major proportions. What do I look like? How do I see myself? How do I feel in my body? What do other people think about me? These concerns can quickly mount up, affecting the way a teen feels about their appearance.
Most teenagers want to feel attractive and look good. They are sensitive to the image they project and to comments from family and friends. In the era of social media, teenagers are continually bombarded with messages and images conveying an ideal standard of beauty.
Given this reality, it is not always easy to learn how to accept the skin we are in. Yet, it is crucially important, because a negative self-image can cause a teen to behave in ways that are harmful to their health. In fact, dissatisfaction with their appearance can prevent them from adopting healthy lifestyle habits, developing high self-esteem, and maintaining a good mental health. This can have repercussions on their overall health and academic success.
More than half of teenagers are dissatisfied with their appearance, namely 57 % of girls and 54 % of boys.
Dissatisfied teens who would like to be bigger
Dissatisfied teens who would like to be smaller
Want to learn more?
Check out our information sheets for more statistics, key facts, and solutions for families, schools, and communities.
To better support
- Talk to your teen about how we should accept differences in height, weight, skin, body type, hair, etc. It is our differences that make us unique!
- Avoid talking about weight: your teen’s, yours, or other people’s. Sometimes even comments that are meant to be nice can have a negative impact.
- For example, congratulating your teen on their weight loss, while unbeknownst to you, they are skipping meals. Inadvertently, you have just encouraged behaviour that is harmful to their health.
- Talk to your teen about puberty and the changes happening in their body. These changes are a normal, inevitable part of adolescence, and everyone develops at their own pace;
- Compliment and praise your teen for their accomplishments and their good qualities; avoid commenting on their physical appearance (e.g., hair, acne, body type, etc.);
- Emphasize the joys of movement and eating well, with a focus on the things your teenager likes;
- Help your teen develop their critical thinking towards images in the media and the standards of beauty (female or male) conveyed in our society;
- Correct preconceived notions and false information about body image, weight management, and attitudes and beliefs about diet and exercise.
- Make cooking and eating together as a family an enjoyable experience;
- Offer a variety of healthy foods and limit access to junk food;
- Engage in fun family sports and recreational activities;
- Discourage your teen from dieting unless it is under the supervision of a healthcare professional.
Lead by example: Remember that what you say and do strongly influence your teen. You do not need to be perfect. There are several ways that you can inspire your teen to lead a healthy life.
For example, even if you are not very athletic yourself, you can still convey the importance of regular exercise to your teen, by signing them up for activities, driving them to their games or meets, helping them buy equipment, etc.
- During a stage marked by multiple physical and psychological changes, and at a time when the media is bombarding us with images of what the perfect body should look like, it is no surprise that most teens agonize over their appearance. Hence the importance of helping them to develop a positive body image.
- Both girls and boys worry about how they look, which is why we need to act on behalf of ALL teenagers, regardless of their background.
- As a parent, it is important to focus on the skills and talents that are more likely to help your teen adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Avoid discussing and giving advice about their weight.
Resources and practical tools
1. For support:
If you are dealing with a situation that has you worried, do not hesitate to reach out to a support worker or a health and social services professional:
2. To learn more:
Latest updates : February 2020