Knowing how to talk to kids about their weight is more important than ever. It seems like every month, a new study comes out with terrifying new stats about the impact of being an overweight child. In most recent news, researchers have found that childhood obesity can quadruple the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Obesity has been linking to everything from low self-esteem to asthma in kids. So yes, it’s definitely important to talk to our kids about maintaining a healthy weight. The big question is: how can we do it without wrecking their already fragile self-esteem? Rachel Fink of ParentingPod.com is here to share some of her insight and parenting tips on handling this delicate discussion.
How To Talk To Your Kids About Their Weight
By Rachel Fink
Talking to your child about weight is one of those subjects that should be held with a lot of caution. After all, weight and physical appearance are among the key factors that go into determining an individual’s self-esteem.
But if your child is either too thin or a little towards the heavy side, this could prove to be health-hazard in the long term. So the problem needs to be addressed somehow.
In this post, we’ll cover how you could go about this without creating an insecurity issue for your child.
What The Experts Say
Surfing the web you might find different opinions. For example, a New York Times article from 2016 mentions that comments on a child’s weight should be utterly avoided. Although somewhat extreme, the claim is certainly well-backed up.
According to a study published in the journal “Eating & Weight Disorders” a parent’s careless comments about a child’s weight, no matter how well-meaning they are, turn out to be common predictors of unhealthy eating behaviors like binge eating and anorexia or bulimia in the future.
Furthermore, the study indicated that when parents encourage overweight children or teenagers to diet, those individuals are at a higher risk of lower self-esteem, depression, and being overweight later in life.
But does this mean you should avoid the topic altogether? Not really, since that would risk creating a tabu around the subject. The site Parenting Pod offers some valuable insight into ways you can go about addressing the subject of weight with your child:
Create Trust And Understanding
Up and foremost, there needs to be a relationship of confidence and clear communication to begin with. One where the child can feel confident enough to ask about any doubts she or he may be having about weight. After that, it’s all about being there to support and guide them.
Although this approach may seem to passive to you, consider that we live in a time where children are constantly bombarded by advertisements and other forms of mass media. Probably through several devices, so it’s definitely more than ever before.
With so much information that typically pertains to manufactured ideals of beauty, it’s only a matter of time until your child asks you something related to how his or her own image relate to these ideals.
Given that you’ve created a healthy environment where they feel comfortable talking about the things that are making them feel uneasy, it’s only a matter of time until they come to you. What you need to do is make sure you’re there when that happens.
Promoting An Active Lifestyle
So patience is well-advised here, as the above articles also stated. The good news is that there are other actions that you can become, quite literally, active about.
With any child, a lot of the communication is not in what you say to them but what you show to them by example. The habits and attitudes that you possess and demonstrate with your daily activities. If you’re an active person then, you can involve them in some forms of exercise.
You should make them feel welcome to join you when going for a walk, a run, cycling or whatever you do. If they seem reluctant, it’s wise not to push them but simply help them find any activity that they seem enthusiastic about. Once they find it, just support them all the way.
Keeping Healthy Eating Habits
The same can be said about the way you eat. Promoting healthy dinners where the whole family sits down, as opposed to a fast grab n’ go fast food meals, can definitely create habits that will last a lifetime.
If your child seems to be using eating as a way to cope with something, don’t scold this particular behavior. While that’s the easiest thing to do, it would ignore the true issues that may be behind those actions, and in turn, making them potentially worse. With this particular topic, the importance of trustful and open discussion is evident again.
The Are Several Ways Of Saying Things
So as you can see, it’s not really a matter of talking about it by sitting down and having a discussion, unless your child brings it up. There are many ways of “talking” about weight with your child that don’t necessarily involve a confrontation that, as the studies mentioned pointed out, might scar them for life if they just weren’t ready to face themselves that way.
Remember that children often don’t think too much about these issues. More often than not, it’s just the anxieties of the adult world casting a shadow over them. While that’s a part of life, it is wise to wait until they are ready to question it instead of imposing the subject over them. Once they do, just make sure that you’re there for them. Preferably with open arms, a welcoming smile and a lot of empathy.
About the author: Rachel Fink is a mom of 7 cute children and a blogger at ParentingPod.com. She likes to read and listen to music, and is passionate about gentle parenting in a not-so-gentle world.