When we think about childhood body image, we often focus on the way girls feel about their appearance. However, boys can suffer from negative self-image in the same way that girls can. Because this topic is not as commonly discussed, it can be difficult to determine how to support your son in feeling good about his body. Keep some of the following suggestions in mind as you talk to your son about body image.
3 Tips for Helping Your Son Build Body Positivity
- Be Aware of What Your Son is Seeing: Everywhere your young man looks, he’s seeing one thing: muscles. Whether it’s shirtless models on billboards, ludicrously muscular action figures, or padded Halloween costumes, your son is constantly being told that the ideal body type for men is flawlessly chiseled. Being aware of the types of bodies your son is comparing his own to can help you understand and manage his cultural reference points. That gives you the opportunity to introduce your son to real-life heroes who have changed the world through their strength, bravery, intelligence and wisdom—whether or not they happen to have six-pack abs. Remember—the most important thing is for you to help him feel comfortable with himself while at the same time encouraging a healthy approach to fitness
- Help Him Find Good Information: The Internet makes it easy for boys interested in building strength to turn to dangerous methods. Bodybuilding forums are a never-ending source of encouragement for taking risky supplements, engaging in unhealthy exercise routines, and focusing on results at the extreme end of the spectrum. Give your son healthier information to base his decisions on. Talk to him about why the physiques displayed in movies and magazines look the way they do. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired or working toward a body that’s fit and healthy. However, your son should also know that much of what he is seeing in the media is the result of good genetics, cosmetic surgery and teams of trainers and assistants. Not to mention air brushes and Photoshop magic. As a parent, your job is to help him build good, healthy habits for a lifetime—habits around exercise, nutrition and sleep that will help him be the best he can be.
- Reach Out: Boys are under a large amount of pressure to look perfect without appearing to care about their appearance. Young men don’t want to stand out from their peers. In fact, according to the Canadian Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Study, boys are just as concerned about being too thin as they are being too heavy. This pressure to blend in while still looking flawless can make it difficult for young men to reach out for help. If you’ve noticed your son displaying an increased interest in physical perfection, consider starting a conversation rather than waiting for him to come to you. He might not say so to you (or even admit it to himself), but he wants and needs your guidance here.
Finding Extra Help
You are the biggest, most important voice when it comes to helping your son build a positive self-image. However, there are others who can have a positive, lasting impact as well. Chiropractic physicians have a unique perspective on musculoskeletal development at different stages of a boy’s life and can offer solid, holistic advice about health and fitness. A chiropractor can help your son understand how his body is changing and talk with him about his own goals, whether they relate to playing specific sports or more general weight training.
While it may not always seem like it, parents have a very, very strong influence over how their sons see themselves. By recognizing the pressures young men are under, maintaining an open line of communication and offering proactive support, parents can help their sons build self-esteem and set health and fitness goals that make sense for them.