The do’s and don’ts of this important conversation
How to talk to your child about weight
Increasing weight in children leads to increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. With childhood obesity rates rising, these health risks are affecting children at a much younger age.
“Obesity is one of the biggest health concerns we in the western world are facing – especially children,” says Elizabeth Victor, Ph.D., clinical psychologist with the Center for Obesity and its Consequences in Health (COACH) program at Children’s Health℠. “All parents want to see their children be healthier, but weight is so stigmatized that it’s challenging for parents to talk about.”
If you are concerned about your child’s body fat then then you need to take action NOW. It is so much easier to tackle when you are in control of the shopping cooking and availability of the food they eat. The first thing to remember is if you are overweight then you are setting the trend for your child or children. Children DO as we Do not as we SAY. So put your own oxygen mask on first and start taking action yourself to make all the meals the whole family eat are not too big, not processed and include lots of fruit vegetable sand berries . It may just be as easy as that . they may start copying you and you will have given the family the great gift you can give them the gift of good health. If they are not following you and you are losing weight but they are gaining weight then it is time to start up a conversation about it.
When tackling this complicated topic, make sure the conversation is supportive rather than punishing or critical. We must be aware that we are not pushing them form one problem into another, such as anorexia or bulimia, if they get pushed too far.
Be gentle with your child – and yourself
Many parents feel uncomfortable and guilty about their child’s weight. These feelings can make conversations negative instead of encouraging.
“Parents often feel overwhelmed talking to their children about weight. You may have or have had your own struggle with weight . If so it can be very helpful to acknowledge your own struggles and openly discuss what changes you are making or made to stop it escalating.
When discussing their body it is also important to talk about it in positive ways. If children and young people hear messages about how your family has always been overweight, they may feel as though they can’t do anything to improve their health. So be open about tall family weight issues and tell them that, as a family, you are all committed to making changes.
Learn and recognize how your child feels
Ask children open-ended questions and use reflective statements to learn how they are feeling. For example, a child might say, “Other kids say I’m fat. Do you think I’m fat?”
Instead of replying “yes” or “no,” give your child a way to reflect on his or her feelings. Say, “I hear you are really worried about how other kids see you, but how do you see yourself?”
After children share, thank them and recognize their feelings. Use statements like:
“I’m sorry you are feeling this way. I am glad you are telling me about it.”
“I hear that is hard for you. I want to work with you to make it better.”
“Your weight doesn’t determine your value as a person.”
“Thank you for sharing these feelings with me.”
Focus on health, not appearance
Doctors and nutritionist believe it is good to relate weight to health, not appearance. All bodies look different and even at a healthy weight, your child may not fit society’s view of how they should look. Other children can be cruel so take the association of weight loss for health away from the what other children are saying.
Point out ways losing weight improves quality of life, not appearance, by saying:
“It can be helpful for you to lose weight so you feel good.”
“Too much weight can put you at risk for diabetes.”
“Losing weight can make us feel more comfortable.”
Having less fat is good for your heart health
Less weight means you can do better in sports and are more agile.
Avoid the word “fat”
Calling your child fat or any other names is a form of bullying. These negative interactions are not helpful and can make weight problems worse.
Parents should stay positive and focus on recognizing what a child does well, using statements such as:
“I noticed you ate all your vegetables. That was great!”
“Thanks for inviting me to go on a walk. I need to get our more and move my body!”
“I see you’re drinking more water. that is so good for you waste system and thinking! Did you know our thoughts are passed across water and our brain is about 80% water.”
Make it a family effort
Family support is vital to success, “Research shows that only when a family makes these changes as a unit does the child successfully lose and maintain weight loss.”
By participating in healthy activities, you can help your child feel less alone and more supported. If children feel like they have their family’s support, that can help in those moments where they feel like they want to give up. So have a family Pow Wow and put forward the following:-
We need to make healthy choices together.
Let’s go on a days out and walks together.
Let’s eat more vegetables every single day.
Lets all stop eating fast foods
Lets start a new fun program together that fun for us all
Put small changes first
If as a family you are struggling we can help you to start by focusing on just a couple of changes so it is not overwhelming. To download our free program go to :- HTTPS// Healthy Steps Program Section and look for “Family Weigh Management”
If your child is struggling emotionally with weight or eating, you should seek out professional help. The support of a team including a clinical psychologist and a social worker can help your child build the coping skills he or she needs to make healthy choices.