I had never given a lot of thought about boys and their body image until I became the mother of a son. And what an eye opener it has been as I watch him go through his tween years. Boys struggle with body image too; however it’s different then with girls. Boys typically don’t want to be thin, they want to bulk up, be muscular and strong.
Many inadvertently comment about how big a boy has grown. As if the growth or height of a boy equates to a higher status. Sure we know boys grow at different rates and people come in all different shapes and sizes, however that doesn’t matter in the eye of a young impressionable boy. If he has not started to grow, or is small in stature it’s “perceived” by some boys as type of deficit and a need to change. This can have a long-lasting effect on their self esteem.
We need to be sensitive with our young boys. They are impressionable. They too are influenced by the media, TV, magazines, family and friends.
How to help your boy feel good about his body:
- Focus on his accomplishments, abilities and values. Not on his weight or height.
- Encourage him to express his feelings and talk about what he deals with at school (e.g., teasing).
- Listen to what he says about himself and others. Use these opportunities to talk.
- Be aware of what you say. Pay attention to the comments you make about the appearance of yourself and others.
- Discuss that genetics play a role in determining body shape and size. There is not one “ideal” shape or size.
- Talk about media messages and stereotypes. Discuss how these unrealistic images can affect self-esteem and body image.
- Help him to respect cultural differences in looks, activities and preferences. This will help him learn acceptance, tolerance and opens him up to new experiences.
Role model and encourage your family to live a healthy lifestyle; including healthy eating, physical activity and feeling good about themselves. I know that I am trying to incorporate these above tips to help my son navigate through this transition.
Share with us your thoughts and tips to help boys develop positive body image.