There is a rising trend among Australian children to seek plastic surgery. This has led to many parents questioning how to deal with their child’s desire to change their bodies or appearance, and how to discuss this sensitive topic with teens. Parents can best see this situation as an opportunity to help their child grow.
The Difference Between Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery
One of the most important considerations in plastic surgery is the underlying reason for the surgery. Some teens may seek plastic surgery purely for vanity reasons. They are unhappy with some part of their appearance, but there is no medical reason to have a surgery. This can be considered purely cosmetic plastic surgery, and it is often this type of surgery that gets more attention and is more difficult for parents and teens to navigate.
Reconstructive surgery is not focused merely on appearance or vanity. There may be an underlying medical reason, such as breathing problems, which plastic surgery may fix or help. If a child has been injured or suffers from a birth defect that alters their appearance, plastic surgery may also be the answer to restoring their appearance back to what it would normally be or used to be. This reason for surgery is more likely to be acceptable and understandable, or even encouraged by parents. Not all plastic surgery is bad, and some types may even be necessary or beneficial for normal health.
It is also important for parents and their children to consider all of the possibilities before settling on plastic surgery to correct an issue. According to this Atlantic article, modern medicine has given many parents other options.
Understanding the Social and Emotional Reasons for Plastic Surgery
Most teens who desire plastic surgery for purely cosmetic reasons are trying to deal with an underlying social or emotional issue centered around their appearance. Most teens are under incredible amounts of peer and social pressure to be accepted, included and popular. Sometimes the desire for this social inclusion is so strong in adolescents they will act irrationally and impulsively.
Modern culture has also given teens a deeply warped sense of beauty and attractiveness. They often see movie stars or models whose beauty has been artificially enhanced by camera tricks and makeup. These models set an impossible standard for attractiveness that teens attempt to meet and ultimately fail. This leads to a lack of self-worth and self-confidence.
It is important for parents to sit down with their teen and have a serious discussion about this topic. A teen should realize and at least have a good understanding of how models and actors look so attractive and that this beauty is in many ways fake and done only for the camera. It may benefit a teen to see pictures of actors or models off the stage, and if possible even meet one in person, so realize that they are just people. It may take a lot of discussion and maybe even some counseling to help a teen realize that their worth is not just in their physical appearance. This is a difficult hurdle for many young people, and it can be tricky for a parent to approach.
The Physical Effects of Plastic Surgery
Since adolescents are naturally impulsive and may not fully realize the consequences of much of what they do, it is important for them to understand exactly what plastic surgery does to their bodies. They may see plastic surgery as a simple fix or the only fix for their appearance, but it is a serious and consequential decision.
Many plastic surgeries cannot be undone or are difficult to undo. A plastic surgery also does not necessarily continue to look the same as a body grows and changes. Adolescents are not done growing and developing. Their appearance is likely to change as they age. On the one hand, this could solve whatever appearance issue they have. They may very well grow out of it. If they choose plastic surgery, the effect of the surgery as they age may not be what they want. It will be too late if they decide they don’t like it later.
The Legal Issues of Plastic Surgery
For older teens, there are certain legal issues parents may need to consider, according to this article. Many territories have an age of consent that is lower than the age of 18. If a child has reached the age of consent, they may be able to decide on a plastic surgery without parental permission.
Most surgeons will also follow basic legal and ethical practices when performing surgery on a child even if parents give permission. For example, the law suggests that children be found reasonably mentally competent and that they are educated about the procedure they are requesting. If the child is not competent, then the parent acting on their behalf must be doing what is in the best interests of the child. If a surgeon or mental health professional deems either of these things to be untrue, then they could refuse to perform the procedure.
In an age where young people are bombarded with fantasy images of beauty, it can be hard for them to find the beauty in themselves. Parents play a huge role in helping their children develop the positive self-esteem and value that doesn’t rely on their physical appearance. When a normally healthy teen is suggesting plastic surgery, this should be a big red flag to parents that it’s time for some serious discussion about what beauty really means. Instead of panicking, a parent can see this as an opportunity to help their child grow healthier and stronger on the inside.