There are more overweight children now than ever before. But helping them without hurting them is tricky. Children carry for life the lessons learned and the humiliation and shame piled on them regarding their weight.
As a parent, it’s a quandary how to deal with overweight children without causing emotional harm. If you neglect their weight and do nothing, they will continue to gain and silently struggle with their weight for life. You can put them on strict diets to lose weight now, but they will learn to sneak eat and resent you for it. You can shame them into not eating, but that leaves many lifelong scars.
Being an overweight or obese child is very hard. Children can be cruel, adults can be cruel. What’s a parent to do?
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for dealing with Overweight Children
This information is based on listening to hundreds of obese women talk about the failures of their parents in dealing with their weight issues as children. There were many different methods parents used, and according to these women, none worked.
Don’ts for dealing with Overweight Children
Don’t single your child out from the rest of the family by feeding him diet foods while the rest of the family eats fun stuff. This makes your child feel deprived and ostracised. They will resent you for it, sneak eat, and not trust they can confide in you about their weight.
Don’t criticise your child for her weight or compare her to other thinner siblings or friends. This type of shaming lasts a lifetime. Even when overweight children become thin adults they have body image issues they can’t get past.
Don’t force your child to join sports they are not suited for, that they don’t like or that they cannot do. Failing at keeping up, being the worst at something, being the disappointment to a coach and/or teammates can motivate children who are motivated but for a child who isn’t, they are just failure points that make them not want to try.
Don’t send them to fat camps and let others shame them into eating differently.
Don’t push your body image issues onto your children. This is actually one of the top problems mentioned by the obese women. Thier mothers had body issues and were always shaming themselves. This made the women when they were just overweight children oversensitive to their own body image and feeling they could never be good enough, so why try. Or worse, lead to eating disorders.
Don’t ignore your child’s weight issues. Kids may not tell you but if they are being called out at school by friends or other children, already they are developing body image issues.
Don’t publicly shame your child by telling them they don’t need to or shouldn’t eat something when others are around. All talks about food and weight should be done privately. That means away from siblings as well.
Do’s for Dealing with Overweight Children
Do talk openly and honestly with your child about their weight at ages when they are old enough to understand. Being an overweight child can be very hard. Other children mock them. Clothes don’t fit or look right. They can’t keep up and are always left at the back of the pack. These things weigh heavily on overweight children, but they may not tell you about it or even want to talk to you about it. You must become creative in how to bring up these issues to discuss them and let your child know you understand and are there for them.
Do ask your overweight child what she wants to do about her look and style. Feeling good about yourself regardless of your age makes you more aware of how you take care of yourself. Buy clothes that your child feels good wearing. Not necessarily what you want them to wear. But what makes them feel good about themselves regardless of their weight.
Do make family lifestyle changes and not just changes for the overweight child. This is the most important thing you can do. Yes, your children, thin and overweight, may balk a little, but lifestyle changes can benefit everyone. Stop buying snack foods and fill your fridge with healthy whole fruits and veggies. In your kids lunches pack fruit and unsalted nuts instead of salty crackers and sweets. Make it a family thing. Make the family change about health not weight. Don’t make drastic changes. Go slowly. Read my article Ten Tips to Get Kids to Eat Healthy Foods.
Do limit electronics. Yes, they may scream at you, but do it for the entire family especially during daylight. Make daylight hours outdoor or family fun times. Set up things in your yard like trampolines, zip lines, basketball hoops, whatever you as a family can enjoy and that brings outdoor fun.
Do become an active family. In today’s busy schedules being an active family can seem like a hard thing to fit in, but for overweight children, it can make a huge difference in how they live the rest of their lives. Start small with things like family bike rides or nature trails. Find what interests your children. Enjoy it with them. Try things that are hard for you as well as them. And laugh. Never take any of it serious and have the patience to go at your slowest child’s speed.
Do things your overweight children excel at. I’m not saying let them win. Instead, let them show you how to do things right. This builds self-esteem something overweight children grow up to lack.
Do love and cherish your child regardless of his or her weight. This seems like a no-brainer, but for many parents, it’s hard having overweight children. They don’t want it to be hard, but there is a sense of shame or even guilt. We are human and have our own biases. Do not hate yourself for feeling these things, but realize this is your issue and not your child’s. Never let your child know that these feelings course through you. Always show them the same love, attention, and guidance as you do your other children.
Raising an Overweight Child can be Challenging
It is up to you as the parent to give the right guidance without causing lifelong emotional issues in your children. No pressure, right? Take some solace in the notion that whatever you do, you will make mistakes.
Just remember, each child is born different and special.
Some children gain weight easily where others don’t. A child might be born with a bigger appetite or develop a liking for more fattening foods than your other children. When this happens in childhood it’s not their fault and it’s not necessarily your fault.
It is your responsibility to give your child the ability to change without enforcing ideas that there is something wrong with them.
You may never understand the way your overweight child thinks or acts, but then whoever knows what makes anyone the way they are.
Love and understanding. Making lifestyle changes for the whole family. Listening instead of lecturing. Do your best, it’s all a parent can do and what every child deserves.