Here are some positive ways to support your child’s development and wellbeing:
I recommend having an open communication system with your children when it comes to food and wellbeing. Even sharing your own childhood experiences can help them to feel at ease and reassures them that there is no judgement whatsoever. Surround them with realistic role models and the unrealistic ways some people distort their appearance on social media platforms such as Instagram using photoshop editing. Help them to feel confident in their own skin, flaws and all. Many teens can become very confused with their bodily changes during puberty so it is most important to encourage your child to discuss their concerns they may have.
Support your children to eat meals they enjoy regularly, but with a few healthy tweaks, such as homemade sweet potato fries or more veges on the side. Allow them a treat day once in a while and encourage them to eat a wide variety of nutritious foods as possible. This can prevent them overeating and excessive snacking by ensuring your children do not become bored with the same foods, and it can be helpful to cook vegetables in creative ways so that they are more appealing.
Help them to understand the impact of health and nutrition on their daily moods. Understanding how the gut is connected to the brain may be very useful for you and your children when noticing how the body responds to stress. I encourage you to read about the mind-gut connection and the importance of maintaining gut health.(Please see below for the links to the audiobooks) You may find slightly altering your diet may better accommodate your gut and ensure that your body takes in the right amount of nutrients and vitamins. I try to maintain a Mediterranean diet and include gluten free options where possible. I also limit my dairy milk and coffee intake and use almond or oat milk. Find what works for you based on how your body responds.
Listen attentively to your children if they become critical of their appearance and ask them why they think that way about themselves. The pressure of fitting in and looking the same as other people becomes even more important in adolescence. Teenagers and in particular teenage girls are more likely to have a poor body image. Let them know that males and females come in all different shapes and sizes, and that it’s unrealistic to idealise the perfect body type. This will prevent them having distorted thoughts and emotions about their bodies, and negative thoughts about their own body image and self-worth. It can be tempting to simply remind your child how beautiful he/she is, however, it is more effective if you provide an example of their talents or skill or appearance.
For example, I was self-conscious about my stomach and my face shape, which was often bloated due to my gluten intolerance. I have a square jaw and didn’t feel delicate and feminine. My family were supportive and showed me images of famous women with similar face shapes to mine, and a similar body shape. It helped me to accept that I couldn’t change my features. Over time, I started to become proud of being unique. By identifying the root cause, it is easier to empower your children to fully accept themselves.
You should help your child make physical activities part of their everyday family life. Remember to praise your teen for their abilities and uniqueness.
Encourage your children to experience what their body is capable of by taking up a challenge, such as fundraising for a world issue they are passionate about, or taking part in a physical team challenge. I raised money by taking part in a sponsored Fire Walk, and I still feel in awe of what my body has achieved!
Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636