Your child comes home from school, devastated that other kids are teasing her about being fat. You’ve noticed that she’s gained some weight, but you’re not sure how to broach the subject.
Many parents struggle with what to say and how to say it. In fact, a recent survey sponsored by WebMD and Sanford Health found that many parents feel talking about weight more uncomfortable than talking about sex and drugs.
It’s no wonder. Ask adults who have struggled with weight issues most their lives, and many will have horror stories about insensitive comments they endured as children that were intended to “help.” 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 on 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… And that’s just not sufficient to help the millions of families facing this serious and emotional health issue.”
A free, online conversation guide that can help—>
To help, STOP and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation have developed a free conversation guide called “Weigh in” that covers “real-world” situations regarding weight, including understanding BMI, body image, bullying, weight bias, and family obesity, along with scripts on how to respond to kids’ questions and concerns, keeping the focus on healthy choices.
“Weight is a tough issue—perhaps the toughest today’s parents face,” 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 7–11, is available online here.
Secrets to a Successful Talk
- Acknowledge the situation and thank your child for sharing his feelings with you to build confidence and security.
- Ask your child open-ended questions so she can express her feelings.
- Identify that weight is a matter of health, not how you look.
- Let your child know the challenges to being healthy, but also be sure to emphasize the benefits of being in better health.
- Offer to join her—working toward the promise of being healthier together creates a supportive environment.
More on Weight Issues:
- Childhood Obesity Is an Epidemic
- Child Obesity: 5 Things You Can Do To Prevent It
- Baby Fat May Signal a Lifelong Struggle with Weight
- Desserts with Low Glycemic Index May Benefit Weight-Loss Efforts for Obese Children
- 8 Tips for Approaching the "Weight Talk"
KiKi Bochi is an award-winning journalist who specializes in family health and child development.
"Secrets to a Successful Talk" adapted from “Weigh in” by STOP Obesity Alliance and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.