If you want to help your child lose weight, the best approach varies a bit depending on her age. Here are some specific tips for parents of overweight kids ranging from age 5 to 12.
Remember to schedule annual well child visits with your child's pediatrician. At those visits, the pediatrician will track your child's growth, both weight and height, and make suggestions for a healthier lifestyle.
Tips for Parents of Overweight Kids, Age 5 to 6
Goal: Weight maintenance
For most overweight children aged 5 to 6, the goal is to help your child maintain his weight for a while, not necessarily achieve weight loss. In most cases, if you can keep your child's weight steady, he will grow into it.
What to Do: Own your child's menu.
Helping your child maintain his weight will require effort and lifestyle changes on your part and his. For instance, you may decide to cut back or eliminate certain types of foods -- especially beverages with sugar in them (such as sodas and juice drinks) and fast food -- and processed, high-calorie snacks (such as packaged baked goods and chips).
As a parent, you have control. If you start cooking healthier meals at home -- and visiting restaurants less often -- your kids will naturally eat healthier, says Karen Donato, SM, coordinator of overweight and obesity research applications at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Another place to pay close attention is to what's being served at school for lunch. If the choices don't seem healthy, pack healthier options in your child's lunch box.
Guidance: Be patient, but persistent.
These changes may not always be easy on your child. If your overweight child is refusing healthy foods, don't demand that he eat them. Be patient, and just keep serving them. Studies show that kids need to be exposed to a new food several times before they might try it.
It may help to remember that any tears or frustration now will mean fewer tears and less frustration when your child is older and at a healthy weight.
Tips for Parents of Overweight Kids, Age 7 to 9
Goal: Weight maintenance
For an overweight child aged 7 to 9, the goal is usually to help her maintain her weight, not necessarily achieve weight loss. In most cases, if you can keep your child's weight steady for a while, she will grow into it.
What to Do: Take charge of food in the house.
Helping your child maintain her weight will require effort from both of you. As the parent, your first step is to take responsibility for stocking your home with only healthy foods.
At age 7 to 9, your overweight child now has more independence and might be helping herself to her own snacks at home. This means that if you don't stock your pantry with unhealthy foods, she won't have easy access to eat them, says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center in Baltimore.