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Back-to-school season can bring body image concerns for kids and teens

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August marks the official back-to-school season, when kids and teenagers re-enter peer-centered environments that can bring about added pressure to fit in.

Kids with body image concerns may need extra special attention during this time, child psychologists warn, and parents should be aware of how they can help their children navigate back-to-school pressures surrounding image, clothing, joining sports teams or just encouraging healthy after-school habits.

"The best way parents can help is to model a healthy body image," Amy Gross, a psychologist with the pediatric weight management program at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital, told CBS. "Parents want to talk about their own bodies positively and not focusing on the parts on the body they don’t appreciate."

Since children and teens may be more prone to comparing themselves to their peers this time of year, Gross says there are a few red flags parents can look out for:


Drastic changes in a child's behavior can indicate a body image problem. A child might not eat or exhibit sudden changes in eating behavior, such as being overly picky, eating too little or overeating.


Has your child's clothing style suddenly changed? Gross says that covering up in attempts to hide the body or, alternately, dressing more revealing than usual, could point to a problem.


Monitor your child's self-talk, Gross urges. If children are consistently making negative comments about themselves or their bodies, they might be in need of some extra encouragement or support.

Helping children understand that they are a "well-rounded person" and that looks aren't everything, Gross concludes, is healthy for kids and teens.

"Also, comment on [your] child’s strengths. Give them positive feedback on what they do well," she said.

Source: CBS Minnesota