Children who are overweight often deal with issues of poor self esteem and poor self image. Popular society tells us that we have to be thin in order to be beautiful. We treat beautiful people differently than ugly people. In children’s movies and fairytales it is the fair maiden that the handsome prince must rescue. All the while the evil, old and ugly witch tries to destroy their happily ever after.
We cannot underestimate our children’s ability to feel real emotions of embarrassment, ostracism and loneliness. Oftentimes these feelings of being the ugly duck in the pond lead children to lash out and become bullies or to do poorly in school. Other times our children take their poor self image and hide their head in the sand, so to speak. Issues of weight are serious and are quickly becoming more and more of a problem that we can no longer ignore. Statistics are increasing every year, and now we know that over 15% of today’s pre-teens are overweight.
There is no doubt that as parents it is our responsibility to take care of both the physical and emotional well being of our children. It is therefore important that we use extreme caution, tact and kindness when we talk to our children about their weight. There are many different ways to approach this delicate subject. One of the best ways to talk to your child about the need to lose weight is to do so indirectly. This can be done by initiating a diet change and exercise plan for the entire family, and not just singling out one child.
Having the entire family eat healthier not only saves the one child of particular concern from embarrassment, but it is likely that if one child is overweight, other children and parents could also use some healthy lifestyle changes. It is especially important for parents to take it upon themselves to make all of the changes that they expect their children to make. It is very common to have overweight children who become so because they observe the health and eating habits of their parents. Parents can therefore be a huge influence in the lives of their children by setting the example.
As the entire family works together to lose weight, each child is also benefited by having a support system at home. Parents should work hard to emphasize teamwork and to encourage each other through this process. A child is much more likely to succeed in their diet if everyone around them is encouraging and supporting good behaviors. A family should be going out and exercising together. The family can go on regular walks around the neighborhood or have weekly sports games together at a park. Family activities can be used as rewards and as routines. The family benefits from valuable time together while at the same time improving their health and losing weight.
Despite increased efforts and family involvement there will still be children who are unable to lose weight. Whether these children are just unmotivated or if it is difficult for them to take off the pounds, another suggestion is to work closely with the child’s doctor. Your child’s pediatrician and dietician will be able to give more personal advice about the specific health needs of your child and may be able to persuade your child in ways that you cannot. Being overweight takes a toll on your overall health. Carrying extra weight puts strain on your heart, your respiratory system and your back. Sometimes a child needs to know the facts of their condition before they take it seriously enough to want to change.