Be the Change You Wish to See
If you talk the talk, make sure you’re also walking the walk.
“One of the best ways parents can help set their children up for healthy habits is to model those same habits themselves,” Bucchianeri says. Clean up your diet, lower your stress, and be active, both with your kids and on your own.
And if you’re wrestling with your own body issues, use that as a teaching tool, says Hes, who's also a director of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. "As a parent you can say, ‘Listen, I've struggled with my weight all my life. I don't want you to have the same problems I do. I really want to get healthy. Let's do it together.'”
Nurture Their Nutrition Knowledge
Review the basics with your teen to be sure they know what “eating healthy” really means. “So many teenagers skip breakfast,” Hes says. “Or they don't realize that eating late at night can make you put on weight.”
Be sure to talk about balance, too, Forman says. “They should understand that there's no one bad food group,” she says. “Fruits and vegetables should be part of the plate. Fats are an important part of the diet, as are proteins and carbohydrates. But having a cookie on occasion is fine, too.”
Call on the Experts
If you have serious concerns about your teen’s health, a medical professional can bring peace of mind for you and your child. You can talk with a doctor, counselor, or dietitian to get expert advice.
“Sometimes parents perceive their child's weight to be too much, or adequate, and that's not correct,” Forman says. “So checking in with the pediatrician, making sure that your suspicion is indeed something that needs to checked, can be helpful.”
Focus on the Positive
The most important thing you can do for your teen is to make sure they know you’re on their side, Bucchianeri says.
“Knowing that you love them regardless of their body size can be a powerful encouragement, and the support they need to adopt healthier habits,” she says.