Skip to content

    Health & Parenting

    Font Size

    Parents, Kids, Doctors Balk at Talk About Weight

    WebMD/Sanford Survey: Sex, Drugs Easier to Discuss Than Weight Control
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

    Sept. 14, 2011 -- Doctors say it's the most important thing parents can discuss with their kids. Yet both parents and kids would rather talk about anything else -- including drugs and teen sex -- than weight.

    Nearly a quarter (22%) of parents are uncomfortable discussing the risks of being overweight with their kids. For parents of kids ages 8 to 12, only sex is a more uncomfortable topic.

    The Talk: Expert Advice For Every Age

    Do you have kids that are different ages or one that’s being bullied at school? See how your approach might need to be different for each one.


    And for the parents of teens, no other topic makes them squirm more: not sex (12% uncomfortable), smoking (6% uncomfortable), drugs (6% uncomfortable), or alcohol (5% uncomfortable). The findings come from Kelton Research surveys of 1,299 parents of kids ages 8 to 17 and of 1,078 kids ages 8 to 17, sponsored by WebMD and Sanford Health.

    With a third of U.S. kids already overweight -- and 17% already obese -- weight control is one of the nation's most pressing issues, says WebMD pediatrician Hansa Bhargava, MD, medical director of the Sanford/WebMD Fit program.

    "If you want to prevent obesity, you have to be talking to the kids who are normal weight, not just those who are overweight," Bhargava says. "There seems to be an all-around misunderstanding of this. Parents should be talking about healthy weight from the get-go, and the conversation should be going on everywhere -- at home, in school, and with health care providers."

    Parents know overweight is a problem: 37% think it's a risk to at least one of their children. They see it as a bigger threat to their kids than drugs (34%) or cigarettes (33%), and nearly as big a threat as alcohol (42%) and premature sexual activity (42%).

    But who's supposed to talk to their kids? It's their doctors' job, 19% of parents say. Yet only 1% of parents think it's primarily a doctor's job to talk to their kids about sex, drugs, or alcohol. Only 2% say it's a doctor's job to talk about the risks of smoking.

    In a Medscape poll of 624 pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners and physician assistants, 90% named weight as one of the most important topics parents should discuss with their children. That's more than named safe sex (73%), smoking (73%), drug use (72%), and excessive drinking (68%).

    Today on WebMD

    Girl holding up card with BMI written
    Is your child at a healthy weight?
    toddler climbing
    What happens in your child’s second year.
    father and son with laundry basket
    Get your kids to help around the house.
    boy frowning at brocolli
    Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
    mother and daughter talking
    child brushing his teeth
    Sipping hot tea
    boy drinking from cereal bowl
    hand holding a cell phone
    rl with friends
    girl being bullied
    Child with adhd