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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

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Teens, Body Image, and Self-Esteem: 5 Tips for Parents continued...

Remember, your child will also model your attitudes about your body. So if you're constantly decrying your hip size or thinning hair, your child will learn to focus on her flaws instead of her attributes.

2. Be positive.

Never make critical remarks about your teen's body. If she has a weight problem, you can be sure she's aware of it. Negative remarks will only make her feel more discouraged and could make the problem worse.

Instead, compliment your teen. Tell her what a pretty smile she has, or how that shirt makes his eyes shine. When you appreciate their physical capabilities -- "Thanks for opening that jar for me" or "You folded that laundry so fast!" -- you are building a positive body image. Help your teen make the most of his or her attributes by encouraging good personal hygiene and posture, healthy sleep habits, and stress reduction.

When your teen is sitting on the couch, suggest you go out for a walk or run together or head to the gym. There is evidence that girls who participate in athletics have healthier body images and higher self-esteem than those who do not. Research has also found that girls who participate in athletics have lower rates of depression, teen pregnancy, and other risky teen behavior.

If you feel you need more help, talk to your teen's school counselor or consult her health care provider and work together to come up with a nutrition and exercise plan.

3. Teach your teen about media.

Don't let your daughter be a fashion victim or your son become obsessed with being muscle-bound. Help him or her develop a healthy skepticism about images in magazines, on screen, and on the web. Make sure your teen understands the airbrushing, photo manipulation, stylists, personal trainers, cosmetic surgery, and other tricks that make up the beauty industry and celebrity culture. Guide your teen to decode advertising messages that link products with personal fulfillment.

4. Emphasize other qualities over appearance.

Support your teen to develop talents and skills that have nothing to do with appearance -- like music, sports, arts, and volunteer activities. Show an interest in his or her passions and pursuits. Acknowledge the good things you love about them, such as how they can make you laugh or their dedication to schoolwork or the way they look out for their younger siblings. Focus on health over appearance whenever possible.


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