If your child is overweight, discussing that problem can be one of the most difficult conversations you’ll face as a parent. Sarah Stone lists several reasons why parents are hesitant to have the “weight talk” and presents compelling reasons for overcoming that reluctance.
If you are the parent of an overweight child, you probably feel like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, you know that your child’s health is in jeopardy and that you should take the lead in addressing this problem. But on the other hand, bringing up this touchy topic-not to mention figuring out how to make important lifestyle changes-is difficult, uncomfortable, and potentially embarrassing for all involved. I
“Communication is an essential part of effective parenting-but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy or enjoyable,” says Stone.
“It certainly doesn’t help that most parents are never trained in this critical skill-especially when our children and sensitive topics are involved. And children’s weight in particular is too often the elephant in the room.”
The good news is, as the current director of operations at MindStream Academy, a co-ed health and wellness boarding school for teens who want to get fit, lose weight, build self-esteem, better manage stress, and take control over their health and wellness destinies, Stone can shed some much-needed light on this tough topic.
First, she says, it’s helpful to understand that you’re not alone in feeling reluctant to discuss your child’s weight.
“These statistics are not surprising, but they are tragic.” says Stone.
“The developing years are when the brain learns habits that will last a lifetime. So right now is when a lasting change can be made relatively easily. Frighteningly, though, if parents don’t act, the health habits of today’s children will only get worse from every conceivable angle-increased disease risk across the spectrum, poorer quality of life, and massive public and private expenditures that will weigh heavily on the economy and on the lifestyle of almost every citizen.”
(They maintain complete radio silence. When your child is small, it goes without saying that you’ll tell her what to do in most areas of her life-or at least make strong suggestions.
They want to spare their children’s feelings. It’s something of an understatement to say that your child’s wellbeing is important to you. The last thing you want to do is cause him any sort of hurt. For that simple reason-a reluctance to see their children in emotional pain-many parents avoid telling their kids that their weight is unhealthy. They are unwilling to, as the saying goes, be cruel in order to be kind.
They know that food isn’t a clear-cut “bad guy.” Remember those statistics on parents who avoid tough talks? Twenty-five percent are reluctant to discuss weight problems, while 10 percent avoid the sex talk, and only 5 percent struggle with addressing drugs and alcohol. There’s a good reason for the disparity in those numbers: sex, drugs, and alcohol are choices that don’t have to be pursued, whereas everyone has to eat. Talking about food in negative terms is much more dicey.
They don’t know how to help. Knowing that your child’s weight is unhealthy is one thing. Knowing how to make positive changes is another. Understandably, many parents are reluctant to broach the subject of their kids being overweight because they simply don’t know what to say to effectively guide their children. After all, with incredibly lucrative industries revolving around health and weight loss, parents (as well as kids) are faced with a massive amount of often-conflicting information about how to best proceed.
They have their own weight issues. In a culture in which 70 percent of people are overweight if not obese, many parents struggle with the problem of carrying extra pounds themselves. If that’s the case in your family, you-the pot-may be (understandably) reluctant to call the kettle black. Plus, you probably know that the “do as I say, not as I do” strategy doesn’t tend to work over the long term. And, toughest of all to admit, you might realize that doing something about your child’s weight will force you to tackle your own as well.