According to Gonzaga et al. (2019), there are several ways that caregivers can encourage and promote strong self-esteem and positive body image in their young people. A healthy body image is pivotal to growing the self-esteem of young people. When it comes to how to talk about a healthy body and self-image, there are several things that can help.
- Set a great example.
Be a role model for your young person, show how you accept your body and be mindful of how you talk about the bodies of others (Hartman-Munick et al., 2020). Caregivers are among the most influential examples and role models in an adolescent’s life (Arroyo et al., 2020). You can encourage your young person to feel good about themselves by guiding them on how it is done and through leading by example.
- Promote a healthy diet and exercise.
Provide your young person with nutritious meals and encourage them to be physically active. Remind your young person that exercise and a balanced diet are essential for growth and development of the mind and body. Start cultivating a positive relationship around foods that are nutritious and provide their body with the fuel it needs to not only help them grow, but to give them energy, a positive mood, mental clarity, and prevent disease.
- Body positivity.
By encouraging your young person to be active physically and take part in activities for physical health and fun, you help them to appreciate and recognize what their bodies can do, instead of focusing on the appearances of their bodies. When a young person recognizes what their bodies are capable of doing, rather than focusing solely on what they look like, they are more likely to feel better concerning their body. This goes hand-in-hand with greater self-esteem.
- Be mindful about media.
Think of what your young people watch, monitor their social media use, and read along with the products they purchase and the messages these choices send. Talk about self-image and a healthy body, including talking about distorted images and messages that media and social media can portray.
- Use positive language.
Instead of discussing your adolescent’s physical attributes, you should praise their personal characteristics like persistence, kindness, and strength. Avoid pointing out any of your young person’s physical or cognitive characteristics that you perceive as negative. Explain the impacts of puberty so your young person can understand what physical, mental, and emotional changes to expect (Hartman-Munick et al., 2020). Ensure that your young person understands that gaining weight is a normal and healthy part of growth and development, particularly during adolescence.
Communicating about self-image and a healthy body is important for self-esteem, as it allows adolescents to take care of themselves spiritually, emotionally, and financially. If you are worried about your young person’s self-esteem, body image, physical activity behaviors, or eating behaviors, consult with a doctor or other health care professional.
- Affirming diversity and inclusion.
Cultural, racial, ethnic, gendered representations of children in books, images, media, art, teachers, etc., help foster and affirm positive/high self-esteem, especially for Black people and people of color.