Talking with Your Child About Their Weight

If your child is overweight, you may be at a loss for how to help.

Talking to kids about weight is a sensitive topic, no matter their age. You don’t want to say or do the wrong thing and risk alienating or hurting them. You can talk honestly with your child if you think that is the best approach. However, the key is to concentrate on health, not weight.

  • Be kind with the message you send: Don’t put so much emphasis in a number, stick to the message “health.” It is important for parents to talk about healthy eating and exercise habits, but this shouldn’t be a one-time, big talk. It should be an ongoing conversation. The best thing you can do is to make it easy for kids to eat smart and move often.
  • Parents should be wary of labeling individual foods as “good” or “bad”: Instead stress the need for a wide variety of foods in a healthy diet. Children can enjoy special treats while learning the importance of balance and moderation. Strongly discourage using food as a reward or eating for comfort.
  • Don’t segregate your child: Make changes as a family, you are not taking anything away from your other children by making healthy changes; you are teaching them healthy habits.
  • Be a good role model: When it comes to children and weight, what you do is more important than what you say. Our attitudes about food and eating are learned behaviors. If parents expose their children to fast food and junk food, the children will develop the same habits, and these habits are hard to break. However, it’s never too late to develop healthy habits. It is also important that both parents and other important relatives are on the same page. Mixed messages can be confusing and may create animosity and anxiety.
  • Stop focusing on your child’s weight: They are self-conscious of it enough as it is. Remind your child they do not need to look like the models in the magazines to be healthy, help them feel good about their own body!
  • Don’t Play the Blame Game: Calling your child fat and making critical remarks about your child’s weight or what he/she’s eating can be very hurtful. It may be one of the worst things you can do. Don’t yell, scream, threaten or punish children about weight, food or physical activity. Shame, blame and anger are setups for failure. The worse children feel about their weight, the more likely they are to overeat or develop an eating disorder. It is important to compliment, encourage, praise, and support your child.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about issues that can affect his/ her weight: Being overweight can be a symptom of a deeper issue that your child is experiencing; find out what’s going on with your child socially and at school. Loneliness is often a factor in children’s weight issues. A child may also overeat in response to unresolved issues at home, such as marriage or financial problems.
  • Finally, praise your child when he/she makes smart choices or is active, but avoid rewards for weight loss as this can send the wrong message.

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