It’s no secret that America has a childhood obesity epidemic.
The health risks that can accompany childhood obesity are so regularly featured on news reports that it’s amazing the problem is still so prevalent. And although many parents can identify a weight problem in their child, they might not know what to do about it, especially when it comes to handling the situation without damaging her self-esteem.
Here is some food for thought, reprinted with permission, for parents of overweight children, along with some practical, real-life advice for handling the situation.
Your Doctor Might Not Tell You
Your doctor might not let you know that your child is overweight or obese. This may be because he assumes you do not want to know. As a parent, it is easy to turn a blind eye to things like your kids being overweight or even when your kids develop a bad habit. If you have a suspicion that your child is overweight, you should approach your doctor about it. This will show him that you are interested in learning more about the issue and are willing to work with his suggestions on what to change or tweak in your child’s life.
You Are Not Alone
Sometimes it’s difficult to realize that you are not the only one with overweight kids. There are others out there who are just as concerned as you are and who are willing to share their wisdom. Search out those other parents and work together to achieve a common goal. That extra support is just the thing you need to keep on track, and having another overweight child working toward becoming a healthier size will help put your child at ease and encourage her to work hard at losing that extra weight.
Exercise Is Always a Good Thing
Not everyone enjoys exercise, but it’s essential for kids’ health and physical development. Come up with an exercise schedule that everyone in the household sticks to. There’s no reason to send your kid off to the gym for an aerobics class while you sit at home. Make it a family event that everyone looks forward to. If everyone likes to do something different, then create a schedule that includes all of the activities throughout the week. Working together as a family not only creates a built-in support system, it can also boost the health of everyone in the family and gives you an opportunity to model the habits you want your child to adopt.
She Shouldn’t Have to Make Changes Alone
Along the same lines as exercising with your child, don’t make them go through any aspect of this experience alone. Singling him out will just create tension and remorse that doesn’t need to be there at all. If the doctor says he needs to change his diet, change the diet of your entire family. Clean out that pantry of the junk food and fill it with healthier alternatives, encouraging everyone to eat better. Even members of your family at an average weight can benefit from cutting out the empty calories.
Some Foods Should Be Avoided
Going out for fast food three times a week is a bad habit to get into, regardless of how convenient it might be for time-strapped parents. All of the grease that is typical of fast food has no place in a child’s diet. And, keep in mind the word “diet” does not mean counting calories and starving your child. She still needs a decent amount of food. After all, she is growing and changing. With how much energy children burn throughout each day, chances are they need to eat more food than you would expect. They just need healthier fare than deep-fried potatoes and genetically modified meat.
Counting Calories Isn’t Always Right for Kids
The strict course of counting calories is a lot of pressure to put on a child and will single them out more than their weight already does. Stress can even be a trigger for kids and adults who are prone to emotional eating. So skip the added stress of counting calories and think about ways to instill healthier habits as a whole.
Your Child May Have Low Self-Esteem
It is possible that your child is being picked on at school or being made fun of by his peers because he is overweight, and he may very well be too embarrassed about the bullying to tell you about it. Sometimes kids don’t even necessarily mean to be cruel, but it can still feel that way to your child when his differences are being highlighted at every turn. If you think your child may be being picked on at school, speak with the guidance counselor to see what she has noticed and what she suggests that you do, but make sure that you’re making efforts to boost his self-esteem at home as well.
It’s Okay to Embrace Your Child’s Weight
Most importantly, embrace the way your child is no matter what. She should feel comfortable with who she is no matter what her weight is and understand that your focus on her weight is out of concern for her health rather than an emphasis on her looks. Just because she is overweight doesn’t mean she’s not a good child, and she needs to know that.