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Teens Seek Cosmetic Surgery

Posted Nov 11 2009 10:03pm
It's a very sad day for me when I read this in the newspaper while having tea and toast for breakfast -

It makes my mind reel in horror to think of such things.  I know having counselled young people for low self esteem and poor body image they can be debilitating emotional and psychological factors to overcome.  The 'answers' as to how to help a young person who has negative feelings about their body can be complex, but surgery as the answer?  No.

The surgeon in the news story, Dr Bruce Fox, goes on to report that he has performed liposuction on 16 and 17 year old girls who supposedly have genetic fat deposits that they could not remove through dieting or exercise -

The issue deepens.

I am at a loss to understand how any mother of a teenage daughter could possibly think that having life threatening surgery was an acceptable thing to do in these circumstances.  The absolute tragic case of 26 year old Lauren James dying from liposuction  should surely act as enough of a warning that cosmetic surgery is not something to be trifled with and can not only go terribly wrong, leaving someone disfigured for life, but potentially take  a life as well.  Surely that cannot be worth the risk to remove at such a tender age what surely must be normal body growth.  It infuriates me truthfully that any parent would even consider the option and any surgeon actually do it.  There is no common sense prevailing here at all.

I wanted to finish today's post with some advice to any parent who has a teenager requesting to have vanity based cosmetic surgery.  I hope it is helpful for any parent finding themselves needing to talk to their teenager about this issue.

  • If your teenager states they want to have cosmetic surgery, ensure that you calmly talk through their feelings and concerns.  Do not dismiss their feelings or turn away from them.
  • If it emerges, (as in the cases reported by Dr Fox above), that your teenager is distressed about the way they look due to teasing or bullying at school, delve as deeply as you can into this issue.  If the teasing can be stopped, it is likely this will go a long way to helping your teenager feel better.  
  • Do not be afraid to inform your teen's school of any reported teasing and bullying and request they do whatever is necessary to stop it. Peer body bashing of this nature is unacceptable and should go against any school's policies about having respect for others.
  • Help your teenager to build resilience against bullies by seeking out ways to improve their confidence, communicate in challenging situations and be assertive.
  • Pay attention to your teenager's eating and exercise patterns.  These things are inextricably linked to body image.  Excessive exercise, requests to go on a special diet, refusing to eat with the family and calorie counting are all potential signs of an even deeper issue such as an eating disorder
  • If your teen expresses feelings of intense loneliness, depression, anxiety and an inability to love and respect themself seek professional help for them immediately.  Your GP is a good place to start for ongoing referrals.
  • Find ways every day to show and tell your teenager that you love, honour and respect them for who they are as a young person and that our value as people goes much deeper than what we see with our eyes.
  • If you are struggling with your own body image seek supportive help that will undoubtedly benefit both you and your teenager.  If you don't have positive feelings about yourself it is highly unlikely that your teenager will be able to either.  By working on feeling more positive about yourself, your teen will immeasurably benefit as well.
  • Always remember that any desire to have cosmetic surgery by a young person is masking much deeper troubles and feelings that are unlikely to be fixed with an invasive procedure.  A surgery such as liposuction is not worth the risking of your teenagers life when there are proven psychological treatments for such issues that can have lasting positive affects in helping someone develop their personal right to confidence and self esteem.
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