Mirror, mirror: Talking to your teen about self image

Monet Somerville, MS
Mirror, mirror: Talking to your teen about self image

It is back to school time and many teens are going back to in-person sessions. Have you noticed your teen being more focused on how they look now that they are going back to school? Have you noticed how they focus on their flaws and forget about all their positives? Well, that is normal! Teens go through something called interpersonal metacognition, which simply means they think about how others think about them. This includes mostly peers but also their families. Being focused on their flaws and consistently thinking about what others think can significantly impact a teen’s self-image. There are ways you can help your teen build a positive self-image and not focus on minor flaws because let’s face it, we all have them.

If your teen is focusing on physical flaws, take a picture of them and ask them to point out three things they like about how they look. This gives them the opportunity to shift their thinking and look at themselves in a different light. Additionally, to help your teen see all aspects of who they are, have them write out at least three positive things about themselves that are not physical. This again helps to shift their thinking away from the negative and to see all the positives of who they are. It also helps them to see beyond their physical traits. You can also document when your teen is successful and show them that. This could be through writing a letter to your son or daughter pointing out character traits or showing them a video of them succeeding at a hard task. This will show them that others are not focused on just the physical traits but who they are overall. Finally, talk with your teen about unrealistic and realistic expectations. This can include talking about what they may see on social media or on television.

The teen years are riddled with questions of “what will my friends think?” and “what will my family think?” These kinds of questions plus focusing on their flaws can lead to a negative self-image. It can be combated when parents step in and focus on the positives and the whole person and not just the flaws. Pointing out the strengths, both physical and non-physical, can help your teen develop a positive self-image despite what others think.