Talking to your child about their weight is a very sensitive and touchy subject. How do you, as a parent, voice your concerns about their weight and not alienate, embarrass or shame your child? Too often this conversation abut eating habits and food choices ends up focusing on being overweight, and fat and not on healthy eating or having a healthy lifestyle.
5 Tips on Talking to your Child about their Weight
1) Don’t Focus on Body Size
- Don’t have a conversation starting with “ I think you need to loose some weight”, “I’m concerned your overweight” “you need to be more active”
- Comments that encourage dieting or the need to lose weight are associated with feelings of shame, embarrassment and body dissatisfaction in your child or teen
- Conversations focusing on body weight and size are linked to an increased risk of unhealthy dieting, binging, and other weight-controlling in young people
- Never bring it up concerns about your child’s weight front of their friends, your friends, relatives. This is a private conversation for you and your child and the family doctor
- If you are constantly talking to your child about their weight or harassing your child about their weight or what they are or are not eating, it becomes a power struggle over who has control and food
2) Create a healthy lifestyle for the whole Family
- Do make this about the whole family living a healthy lifestyle that includes good food, exercise, limited screen time, sleep, hobbies, and work.
- Have this conversation often. You won’t agree on all the same goals all the time. Take the time to listen and learn what is important to each family members.
- Don’t single out one person as being the “problem child”
- Help educate your child on how to eat healthy. What does this mean to them and to you
- Have your kids help out in the kitchen and go grocery shopping with you. Teach them how to read the food labels.
- Don’t label foods as being good or bad. Teach your kids to enjoy all food in moderation
- Show them how exercise can be fun like bike riding sports ping-pong or just going for a walk.
3) Examine your own Beliefs
- Do you make negative comments about your body shape, size or dislike of parts of your body? Your children pick up on these types of negative statements
- Be aware that teens years can be difficult for teenagers as their bodies go through growth sprouts and physical changes.
- Both teen girls and teen boys are often concerned about their weight. It’s quite common to hear or see teenage girls dieting, but it’s about finding a balance point between eating and exercise. We are now starting to see young men becoming overly concerned about their weight and body image
- demeaning or shaming language about weight and body image will lead to your child become defensive and then hiding their unhealthy eating behaviours
- Don’t to engage in badgering or harassing. If you harass, it becomes a power struggle about who controls the food that enters your child’s body
- Examine images and stereotypes in the media and pop culture about body image, food, and body shapes and sizes. Ask your kids what do they think?
4) Don’t use food for rewards or punishments
- Sometimes we use food to soothe emotional problems, rewards good behaviour or even use food for punishment
- Food should be for eating and not for pushing down emotions – talk about how to deal with sadness or anger without reaching for foods to self soothe
- Over focusing on good versus bad foods can lead to poor eating habits and issues such as bulimia, anorexia, or the use of laxatives to control weight
- Do talk about how foods are associated with family gatherings, holidays and examine is it the food that makes these memories good or the company we share?
5) Look for signs of unhealthy food patterns
- Sometimes we do use food to self soothe when we’re sad, anxious, depressed or angry. Teach and show your children how to regulate your emotions. Do not use food to solve emotional issues or to make them “feel better”.
- Have you seen your kids skip several meals, severely restrict what they eat, won’t eat certain types of foods, go to the bathroom often during or right after meals? Do you find a lot of food wrappers in their bedroom or the trashcan?
- Do reach out for help from your family doctor or a therapist who specializes in disorder eating
Remember you want to have an open conversation not a criticizing monologue. Talking to your child about their weight is a difficult conversation. We’re all sensitive about our looks and body shape and body size. It’s best to not focus on your child’s weight. Your focus needs to be about leading a healthy lifestyle that involves healthy eating and exercise. Don’t single out one person in the family as being the “problem child” or “problem teen”. Try to engage the whole family into leading a healthy lifestyle that involves healthy eating and exercise.
Visit us at http://family-therapy.ca if you’re interested in speaking with a therapist.