If your child comes home from school talking about being "fat," she may be being teased about her weight. Overweight kids are more likely to be bullied than kids who are at a healthy weight, according to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics of more than 7,200 elementary and high school children.
All bullying, of course, is wrong. You should reassure your child and make her feel loved. If your child is overweight, you can also use this as a chance to work on being healthier together.
The Talk: Expert Advice For Every Age
Here are some tips from health professionals and parenting experts on how to talk to a child who has been teased about being overweight.
- First, always comfort your child and make her feel loved, and reassure her that you'll work on the situation together.
"I love you. You're a beautiful girl. We'll figure this out and make it better."
- Explain to your child that teasing and bullying is always wrong. Ask your child if she'd like you to talk to the teacher or principal and explain what's happening.
"It's absolutely wrong to make fun of people based on how they look. We're all different."
- Start a conversation with your child about how the teasing made her feel.
"How did it make you feel when the kids talked to you like that?" Or "What do you think about what they said?"
- If your child says that what happened made her want to lose weight, switch the focus to being healthy, not shedding pounds. Work together to come up with a plan. When your child is involved in the process -- by choosing healthy foods and activities, for example -- she'll be more likely to be invested in the plan and want to stick with it. Point out that we can all be healthier, whether it's exercising a little more or working on eating a little better.
"What matters is not how much you weigh, but how healthy your body is. What kinds of things do you think we can work on as a family for all of us to be healthier?"
Healthy Habits for the Whole Family
To make sure that you're following a good nutrition and exercise program, plan to talk to your pediatrician or family doctor at your child's next well checkup, or make an appointment now if you want to address weight concerns sooner. Call your health care provider first to let her know that you'd like her to talk with your child about healthy weight when you visit. She can also measure your child's height and weight to calculate her body mass index (BMI) and see if indeed your concerns are valid.
Your pediatrician can talk to your child, reinforcing the message about the importance of healthy food and regular exercise.
It's important that the whole family be involved in any healthy changes -- whether it's healthier meals or more activity -- so that the child who is at an unhealthy weight doesn't feel singled out. Sit down as a family and let everyone offer suggestions for ways that the family can become healthier. Plan to start small so you won't be overwhelmed. Try focusing on one new goal every week or two.
Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
- Have one treat a day instead of three
- Have a vegetable with every meal
- Go outside and be active every day for 30 minutes
- Have two pieces of fruit a day
- Eat fast food no more than once a week