American Counseling Association
Childhood obesity is a major problem. While the increase in obesity rates has recently begun to slow, this means little if your own child is overweight. There are no easy cures, but there are ways you can address and help overcome the challenges he or she is facing.
A starting point is to avoid actions and behaviors that might make the problem worse. An overweight child often has low self-esteem, may face teasing and bullying at school, and often is at increased risk for a variety of health problems.
Overweight children are well aware of their weight issues and they don’t need reminders from Mom and Dad of the problem. Such parental attention can leave the child feeling ugly, hopeless and unloved. And these negative emotions often lead to emotional eating as a way to minimize the negative feelings.
Even well-intentioned actions, like reminding your child to eat healthier, can feel like nagging. When a parent pushes a child to be more active in sports, or plays food police by controlling or restricting what can or can’t be eaten, the result is often an opposite reaction, such as sneaking unhealthy snacks, skipping practices or simply rebelling.
A good starting point for a parent who really wants to help is a frank, non-judgmental talk with the child about his or her feelings. Ask the child to identify negative messages that you’ve been sending, probably unintentionally. Try to respond to the child’s negative feelings with positive, sincere messages.
An important part of helping is to set a positive example. When you’re eating healthier, it’s easier for the child to do the same. That also applies to exercise. Set an example and find ways to encourage your child to be more active together with you. It can be anything from after dinner walks to playing catch or kicking a soccer ball in the backyard.
Of vital importance is to provide your child with healthy food choices. Kids often have different eating patterns than their parents. Plan healthy meals for the whole family and have a bowl of fruit for that after school snack rather than a plate of cookies or bag of chips.
Weight loss is never easy and can be especially hard for a self-conscious, overweight child. When the child makes even small moves in the right direction, be complementary and be sure to offer love and support, not criticism.
Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.counseling.org.