If your child is overweight, you may be at a loss for how to help. Talking to kids about weight can be a sensitive topic, no matter their age. You don't want to say or do the wrong thing and risk alienating or hurting them. Sometimes it can be tempting to avoid talking to kids about weight altogether and keep living life as is, even though you worry about your child's physical and emotional health.
While it may be uncomfortable to discuss weight concerns, the sooner you bring it up and help your child take action, the easier it will be to help him or her achieve a healthy weight. Ignoring it won't make it go away, and in fact, waiting until your child is older to deal with weight issues may make it harder for him in the long run. While it is possible at any age, it can be much easier to tackle weight problems when a child is younger and more open to making different lifestyle choices.
Also keep in mind that overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults, which will put them at a higher risk for serious health concerns such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. So talking with your child now can help put him on a path toward better health as an adult.
So where should a parent start? WebMD checked in with the experts who work with overweight children and a child who's all grown up to find out supportive ways to help children overcome weight issues while keeping their self-esteem intact. They offered these dos and don'ts for parents.
1. Do be your child's ally.
It's important to talk honestly to kids about their weight if they ask you about it -- and be available to help. "If your child is concerned about her weight, tell her you want to help, and make getting healthy a project you work on together," says Emily Ets-Hokin, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine.
Then put some action behind your words by helping her explore her interests and discussing options. For example, suggest taking a cooking class together to learn healthier ways to prepare old favorites. Bring her grocery shopping with you and have her choose a new fruit or vegetable to try every week. Or see if she'd be interested in getting pedometers for everyone in the family and setting a goal for number of steps per day. By involving your child in the decision-making process, you help her take charge of her health and build self-confidence.