Worried that your child is eating too much and might become overweight? Not sure how to strike up a conversation? The answer to this month’s reader question offers tips for talking to kids about their weight without being a nag and turning them off.
Q. How do I talk to my 8-year-old daughter about her weight? She loves to eat especially ice cream and begs for sweets all day long. I give in sometimes, but she’s so much heavier than my other kids, and I don’t want her to be overweight. Help!
A. Weight is a heavy topic of conversation for both girls and boys. The media reminds us everyday, we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic and one out of three American kids are currently overweight or obese. As parents we love our kids no matter what their size or shape – they are not statistics! On the other hand, helping them achieve and maintain a healthy weight is more important then ever.
Good for you for wanting to talk with your daughter and more importantly, for your sensitivity about the conversation. Heavy kids often have problems with their body image and self esteem. Before talking with her, carefully review the following recommendations – they’re from my book Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens and each is backed up with scientific research. Good luck!
- Talk about “healthy weight.” Always emphasize the importance of being a healthy weight when talking with children or teens. Categories such as overweight and obese are medical terms to discuss privately with the pediatrician and registered dietitian nutritionist.
- Stay positive. Parents who criticize their sons and daughters about their weight are more likely to have overweight kids. Overweight kids probably know better than anyone else that they have a weight problem. What they need most is support, understanding, and encouragement.
- Give kids a hug. Tell your kids how special you think they are and how much you love them. Kids’ feelings about themselves are often based on how they think their parents feel about them.
- Focus on your family. Instead of singling out one particular child, make healthy eating and physical activity a family affair.
- All food can fit. Studies have found that restricting foods is associated with overweight in children. Instead of forbidding certain foods like ice cream or sweets, help your children learn how to eat and enjoy all food in smaller portions.