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How to talk to your child about obesity

Published in Pediatrics, Weight Management, For the Health of It Author: M. Kim Hellier, PhD, LP, Child & Adolescent Psychology, CentraCare Plaza – Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health Services

Talking to a child about weight can be a sensitive topic and can be a challenge for parents. Whether the topic comes up as a result of bullying at school or is discussed during a well-child appointment, we want to make sure you have the tools to discuss this topic in a positive way with your child. Our goal is to help your child have a healthy body, so make sure to focus on lifestyle changes — rather than weight loss — to support self-esteem and body positivity.

Some tips include:

  • Focus on health — not weight or physical appearance
  • Remind your child that you love him/her no matter his/her size. Let your child know that you want your family to be happy and healthy and the lifestyle changes will be for all family members
  • Listen to your child’s concerns about his/her body size, shape or weight
  • Focus on your child’s strengths and skills instead of body size challenges
  • Avoid making food choices and exercise a power struggle. Offer structured meals and snacks and fun family activities
  • Invite your child to offer his/her ideas on family changes

If you are concerned about your child’s weight, we recommend that you talk to your family (not just the child) about healthy lifestyle habits including healthy eating choices, fun physical activity for your child and family, healthy screen time habits and getting a good night’s sleep.

Example conversation for if your child is being bullied:

  • I’m sorry to hear you were teased at school today. Can you tell me what happened?
  • Listen with a neutral stance so your child feels that he/she can tell you about all his/her feelings.
  • A good parental response: I’m sorry this happened to you. You do not deserve to be treated this way and this is not your fault. Let’s think about a teacher or an adult at school who can help you with this problem. Remember I am always here to help when you are teased or bullied for any reason.

If you want or need more support and assistance with making these changes as a family, you always can give us a call at 320-534-3096 to enroll in our Pediatric Weight Management Program. This program is fully insurance-based and includes a team of pediatricians, psychologists, dietitians and other helping professionals.

We specialize in working with children and families to make healthy lifestyle changes together. We also will help you and your child with other skills such as meal planning, recognizing hunger and fullness cues, coping with teasing and finding healthy ways to handle strong emotions.