Your child comes home from school, devastated that other kids are teasing her about being fat. You’ve noticed that she’s getting a bit pudgy, but you’re not sure how to broach the subject.
Talking to children about weight can be touchy. Many parents struggle with what to say and how to say it. In fact, one survey by WebMD found that many parents feel that talking about weight is more uncomfortable than talking about sex and drugs.
It’s no wonder why. Ask adults who have struggled with their weight most their lives, and most have horror stories about insensitive comments they endured as children that were intended to “help” them. Understandably, today’s parents are worried about saying the wrong thing, hurting their child’s self-esteem, or worse, triggering an eating disorder.
With the ever-growing proportion of children who are overweight or obese, however, parents need to develop smart strategies about how to address the issue of weight. Unfortunately, there isn’t that much practical advice out there.
“When parents search online or ask a medical professional for help in talking with their children about tough topics like sex or drinking, they can find a host of useful tools,” says Scott Kahan, the director of STOP Obesity Alliance, a collaboration of nearly 70 consumer, government, labor, business, and health organizations. “Yet, if they search for information on how to field questions on weight, they won’t find much beyond the simplistic ‘eat less, move more’ proclamation we’ve heard for years.
And that’s just not sufficient to help the millions of families facing this serious and emotional health issue.”
To help, STOP and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation have developed a free conversation guide that covers “real-world” situations regarding weight, including understanding body mass index, body image, bullying, weight bias, and family obesity. It offers various scripts on how parents can respond to their child’s questions and concerns, keeping the focus on healthy choices.
“Weight is a tough issue — perhaps the toughest today’s parents face, given all the complexities,” says Ginny Ehrlich, CEO of Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “But that doesn’t mean we can avoid it. In fact, it only intensifies the need to weigh in.”
The free guide, aimed at the parents of children ages 7 to 11, is available online at www.WeighInOnObesity.org.
KiKi Bochi is an award-winning journalist who brings readers the best advice and latest developments in family health and child development.
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