Parents, Teens and Plastic Surgery
By Elliot Jacobs, MD
It has become quite commonplace to talk about plastic surgery in New York City, just as it has in other major metropolitan areas, and it is not unusual to hear teens discussing procedures they’d like to have. Here in the Big Apple, young people don’t just pay attention to what reality TV teens are doing; they’re also bombarded with images of perfectly proportioned, youthful models on billboards all over Manhattan.
So how can parents ensure teens have the right perspective on plastic surgery? Here are some tips to consider.
Encourage conversations about body image whenever your son or daughter seems open. Any frustration you hear could be related to normal adolescent changes, or there could be some underlying issues intertwined with unhappiness about physical developments. Do your best to listen without judgment and express understanding. Ask gentle questions about other aspects of your teen’s life, and don’t hesitate to suggest counseling if you think it might benefit him or her.
If your daughter seems obsessed with the huge lips or oversized rear ends young celebrities tend to favor these days, remind her that fads come and go—even when it comes to bodies. Back up your position by showing images of female models of yesteryear, from the Rubenesque women of the Baroque era to the skinny waifs of the 1960’s. You can suggest that it’s a sure bet that at least some stars will regret their enhanced lips and butts at some point in the future.
Share an Experience
Remember when you sprouted breasts before you were really ready for them? Or when your feet seemed way too big for the rest of your body? “This too shall pass” may seem like a simplistic message, but when you share a personal story with your child it can be powerful. It can be difficult for a young person to trust that his or her body proportions will even out and feelings of embarrassment subside—you can help.
There’s no better antidote for self-absorption than outside activities and accomplishments. Perhaps your son or daughter would benefit from a hobby or pastime that gets them out of the house and away from electronics. Encourage your teen to find ways to exercise their muscles, try something new and/or give back to society—and consider joining them!
Be Open Minded
It’s not hard to argue that plastic surgery for teens is often inappropriate. But there are exceptions. Very large breasts can cause a young girl extreme mental anguish, and when overdeveloped male breast tissue known as gynecomastia persists for guys, the impact can shatter self-esteem. Even oversized ears and noses can attract teasing and bullying, causing a teen to withdraw.
If your child is suffering from a physical attribute that might warrant cosmetic surgery, it is natural to have many questions and conflicting feelings. One step you can consider is to visit a plastic surgeon with experience working with teens—with or without your youngster. After you perform research and talk with family and friends, this is the next logical move. You’ll gain valuable information from an experienced, understanding professional, and no reputable plastic surgeon will push a procedure on anyone.
There’s perhaps no more difficult time of life than adolescence, and impressionable young people often grasp at ways to fit in better—even plastic surgery. You owe it to your son or daughter to do all you can to help them gain perspective and a sense of peace about their body.