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How to Cope with Body Changes

Your body image is how you view yourself or think that others view you. Body image helps teenagers define who they are.

Treatments may cause changes to the body of a child or teenager. These can be stressful to you and them. It is important to remember that most changes are temporary. There are things you can do to help your child cope with hair loss, weight changes, acne, scars, loss of limbs and other issues.

Hair loss

  • Hair loss can include all types of body hair. This includes eyebrows, eyelashes, chest and pubic hair, and nose hair. The loss of nose hair can cause a heightened sense of smell. Try to avoid strong scents such as detergents, perfumes, and colognes that may bother your child.
  • Some people find it helpful to cut their hair short or shave their heads when it starts to fall out. This gives them a sense of control over the hair loss. It can also help with some of the itching that goes along with hair falling out.
  • Some people like to wear wigs, hats, scarves, and bandanas. These items can also help to identify the person’s gender, since some are insecure about this issue when they lose their hair. Your social worker can help you find resources for wigs, hats, or scarves. You can buy plain hats and bandanas that you and your child can decorate. You can even have friends and family members sign the hats as a way to show support.
  • Some people like to dye their hair or get a silly haircut before their hair falls out. It can be a fun way of coping with this loss. Please check with the doctor before using any hair dye.
  • Child life specialists offer resources and support for children and teens dealing with hair loss.
Care team talking to your child about hair loss

Your care team can help you talk to your child about hair loss.

Weight loss and weight gain

  • Some medicines can cause side effects that include weight loss or weight gain. Your child may not want to take medicines because of this side effect. Try talking with your child about why the medicine is needed. Your words may help them understand the changes that are happening to their body and that these changes are not permanent.
  • Some people find it helpful to make a calendar of how long they will have to take medicines that cause changes in weight.
  • Encourage some physical activity when your child feels up to it. This might include walking or biking. Talk to your health care team or physical therapist to use a treadmill or stationary or outdoor bicycle.
  • A nutritionist can help create a food plan for your child to keep a healthy diet.


  • Talk with your doctor about proper skin care and cleansing options.
  • Try different types of make-up and concealers.
  • Check with your child life specialist about the Look Good, Feel Good Program for teens.
Acne from treatments

Acne is a common issue that can cause teens to worry about their appearance. Talk to your care team about ways to reduce or treat acne.

Scars, surgery sites, ports, lines, loss of limbs and more

  • Talk with your doctor before surgery to ask about possible scarring and changes in body function. When you know what to expect, you and your child can prepare for these changes.
  • Try different types of make-up and concealers after the area heals.
  • Different styles of clothing may be used to cover areas that your child does not want other people to see.
  • Check with your child life specialist about meeting other patients who have had similar experiences.

Body changes may make your child feel odd or uncomfortable about the way they look. Some people may want to avoid their friends, school, public places, or having pictures taken. Try to respect your child’s wishes while continuing to set limits.

The internet, social media, phone, and writing and receiving letters are all ways your child/teen can have contact with peers and still have the privacy they desire. In time, most people adjust to these changes and return to their normal activities.

A parent or caregiver can support children and teens by:

  • Listening to them if and when they want to talk about these body image changes
  • Giving them outlets for expressing themselves such as journals and art projects
  • Letting them know that it is OK to feel sad or mad about these body changes


The following Web site provides ideas and products to help cope with body changes.

Key Points

  • Treatments may cause changes to the body of a child or teen.
  • Most of these body changes are temporary.
  • Members of your medical team can suggest ways to cope with body changes.

Reviewed: September 2022