“Am I fat?”
They’re three words no parent wants to hear. But your child may say them -- or ask another weight-related question -- at some point.
“Whether your child is overweight or simply thinks she has a weight problem, it’s a common concern. And as a parent, it can be a tricky thing to address,” says Rosa Cataldo, DO, director of the Healthy Weight and Wellness Center at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital in Stony Brook, New York.
No matter your child’s size, there are a lot of ways you can talk about weight without hurting his feelings and help him find ways to be healthy. Here are six smart strategies every parent should know.
Don’t try to have a “big talk.”
If your child comes to you and wants to have a long discussion, great. But most of the time, “it’s probably going to come up in bits and pieces. And that’s OK,” Cataldo says. If you don’t make a big deal out of it, it’s more likely she’ll feel comfortable talking to you. “Kids like it when they feel like they can guide the conversation.”
That’s also true if you suspect your child is overweight. If she doesn’t bring up her size with you, “Consider scheduling a checkup for her with her doctor,” Cataldo advises. A health professional can tell you if her weight actually puts her health at risk and, if so, what you can do about it.
Swap statements for questions.
Your instinct might be to reassure your child. But statements like “You’re beautiful just the way you are” and “Everyone’s different” may feel “fake” to kids, says Sanam Hafeez, a school psychologist and neuropsychologist in New York City. “Even if you believe it, it isn’t specific to their situation.”