While it’s not news that insecurity about how our bodies look has become epidemic, many of us may be surprised that the level of insecurity among men is approaching that experienced by women: between twenty and twenty-five percent of men are dissatisfied by their physical appearance, compared to just under thirty percent of women (Link).
And even though the stereotypical sufferer from body insecurity is a teenage girl, adolescent boys are increasingly affected (Link).
Parents may feel overwhelmed by the countless ways their teenagers can bring trouble upon themselves. But the effects of body insecurity, including the greater likelihood of depression and of high-risk behavior among adolescent boys, can be serious. They shouldn’t be ignored.
Any problem for young people is a problem for schools. Daniel Gray, Idyllwild Arts Academy’s Director of Student Services, has a Master’s in Holistic and Integrative Education, with a strong emphasis on physical wellness. Yet he admits that to address body insecurity, special skills and experience are required: “I rely on the licensed therapists on our school staff.”
However, the time that a school therapist can devote to any individual student is limited, and students spend much of their time at home. It’s crucial for parents to stay involved, too.
If you’re the parent of a teenager, whether a girl or a boy, you probably don’t expect to find a magic bullet that can kill a problem which seems to have deep cultural roots. It’s reasonable to seek help, though, and resources are available, including the following:
NEDA, the National Eating Disorders Association, lists ten steps to a positive body image on its website and maintains a confidential toll-free hotline.
The Body Positive (Link) promotes the Health at Every Size philosophy and teaches critical thinking about the cultural obsession with thinness.
Body Image Health (Link) supplies tools for avoiding body image-linked problems, including a book for parents.
Body Positive (Link) provides live chats and newsgroups.