It’s natural for kids to think about how much they weigh sometimes. But if your child comes home from school and suddenly talks about being fat, they might be being teased about their size.
You’ll want to comfort and reassure them. But you should also talk to them about how they feel and how they wants to handle the situation.
You may not be able to keep bullies off the playground, but you can let them know that being healthy is the most important thing, not how they look.
What You Can Do
You can start by making them feel loved. Let them know that you want to work on the situation together. Help them set personal goals.
"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 if they'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 them feel.
"How did it make you feel when the kids talked to you like that?" Or "What do you think about what they said?" Turn the incident into an opportunity for change and focus on the positive.
If your child says that what happened made them want to lose weight, it’s time to switch their focus from shedding pounds to being healthy. Work together to come up with a plan. When your child is involved in the process -- choosing healthy foods and activities, for example -- they'll be more likely to want to stick with it.
Point out that it’s good for the whole family to make better choices, 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?"
Good Habits for the Whole Family
First, plan to talk to your pediatrician or family doctor. Call ahead of time to let them know that you'd like them to talk with your child about healthy weight when you visit. They can also measure your child's height and weight to figure out their body mass index (BMI) and see if they really are overweight.
Then, take the opportunity to get your whole family to make smart changes. If everyone picks healthier food or exercises more, your child who is worried about their weight won’t feel singled out. Sit down as a family and let everyone come up with ideas. Start small and focus on one new goal every week or two. Set family goals, and plan rewards and incentives.
Get started with these tips:
- 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.
Continue to check in with your child and make sure they feel safe and comfortable.