What Do I Say To My Child?
With 1 in 3 children overweight or obese, this question is on many parent’s minds. If your child is overweight, they probably already know it. Research shows that children, especially girls, as young as five years of age are aware of their size and whether they are overweight. It is very important to talk to your child compassionately about their weight. What you say is important to discovering the best way to help them achieve a healthy weight.
A Compassionate Approach Is Best
The best place to start is to find a good time to talk to your child that doesn’t feel like a “talk.” Your goal is to help your child understand that the whole family is going to work together to become healthier. Therefore, find a time that makes sense to talk about weight. Maybe on a shopping trip to buy clothes or when heading back from a practice.
If your child seems responsive to the idea of talking about their weight, let them know that you are concerned, not about their size, but their health. Reinforce that the whole family will work together to become healthier. Do not single out the child, or discuss specific behaviors. As a parent you need to help them understand losing weight is a long process. Weight loss is a factor of time, and to lose weight in a healthy way takes a long time. Let your child know you will all work together and support each other.
Here are some words that may be helpful to use when you talk to their child about their weight:
- Healthy weight
- Family working together to become healthy
- Move more
- Eat healthy foods
- Less time inside
Here are words NOT to use when you talk to their child about their weight:
- Junk Food
- No TV
- No computer
Act As If
If you want your child to be healthy, you need to act as if they are healthy. Do what healthy families do. Find an outside activity you can do together like bike riding, walking after dinner, or walking to school. If you are physically active and eating healthy meals it improves the odds that your child will be too. But the key is to get them involved in choosing the healthy foods and the activities you can do as a family. Show your child that you respect them and yourself. Do not call attention to your own body issues and expect that your child will not be effected.
Focus on the Child Strengths
Keep your child’s weight in perspective. Refrain from discussing it everyday. Because overweight kids tend to be teased or bullied at school or on the playground it is important to remind them of the things they are good at or the positive attributes they possess. Are they kindhearted? Good at math? Funny? Good writers?
Keep Your Child Safe
It is important to know too that your child may not tell you they are being teased about their weight. Therefore, it is very important that you let them know that you are there for them if they are being bullied or teased. Never lie to your child about their weight, but keep your comments short when they have a setback. Be honest, “Yes you may have gained a little weight but that will happen. Let’s focus on today. What healthy choices can we make today?”