Obesity in Teens: Tips for Parents
Making significant lifestyle changes that affect the whole family can be daunting -- and your teen may be resistant at first. These suggestions can help keep things moving forward.
Keep it simple; don't change everything at once.
Don't suddenly outlaw all sweets, demand two-hour jogs, and hide the video game console in the garage. That will backfire and set your teen up for failure. Start with the simplest changes -- ones that your overweight teen can complete and feel successful with. Focus on doing them every day, and then increase them over time. You may want to consider family challenges or a reward system.
If you're commenting on every bite your overweight teen puts in her mouth, she's likely to get angry and withdraw. Plus you're damaging her confidence to trust her own decision-making. Remember that she is attempting to make some big changes in her life, and it will take time. She'll slip up here and there, and that's normal. What you want to see is progress, so try to keep the big picture in mind. Remember, successful change can sometimes be two steps forward, one step back.
Stress a positive body image.
In our popular media, thin is beautiful. That can be demoralizing for a heavy kid. You won't be able to counter the influences of our culture single-handedly -- or take away the pain caused by teasing or bullying at school. But you can emphasize what's important. Make it a personal goal for yourself to comment on your teen's strengths and positive qualities regularly. Let your teen know that she is wonderful, and you love her unconditionally. Help her see that the people who make judgments based on appearance are not seeing her for the wonderful person she is.
Emphasize the medical, not the superficial.
When you talk about healthy eating and exercise, your teen might feel like you're ashamed of how he looks. Emphasize that you're only trying to help because of the serious medical risks of obesity. Talk about diabetes, arthritis, and liver disease. Motivate her by reminding her that making the efforts to be healthy will help her do the things she likes to do more easily. You're not judging her character. You don't want her to look "better." You're helping her be healthier.