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A Weighty Issue
Discussing weight can be a delicate issue, especially when talking with children and adolescents. Here are 8 tips for how to sensitively approach this weighted discussion and encourage a healthy lifestyle.
1. Highlight Healthy Habits
First, focus on the healthy changes in your child's lifestyle rather than dwelling on the need for weight loss. Applaud your child for eating more vegetables and fruits. Cheer her on for drinking less soda. Praise her for each small step along the way so she knows she is on the right path to good health.
2. Get All Hands On Deck
Unite your family to support your child on her voyage to better health. Your child is more likely to make successful changes if those around her improve their lifestyles as well. Support her as a family. For dinner, make side salads instead of french fries. Encourage your family to snack on fruit and low-fat popcorn instead of candy.
3. Make Considerate Comments
Take notice of the words you use when you talk about weight. Stay away from calling people "fat" or "chubs." Avoid negative stereotypes about people who are overweight. Rather than saying "chubby" or "obese," use the term "above average weight."
4. Beware of Subliminal Messages
Have you every asked your children, "Do these pants make me look fat?" or "Does this dress make me look chubby?" Be careful about what you say about your own body around your children. Women commonly make negative comments about their own bodies. These comments can send children negative messages about body image and self-esteem.
5. Stay Away from "Shoulds"
Have you found yourself telling your child, "You shouldn't be eating that," or "Should you be eating something healthier?" Should statements are not the way to set your child on the path to healthy eating. Wait for the appropriate time to suggest a healthier alternative. Model healthy eating to show your child how to make nutritious food choices.
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6. Support Self-Esteem
Boost your child's confidence. Help her realize that self-esteem comes from within. Celebrate her successes. Compliment her kindness, being a good friend, working hard in school, or taking care of a pet.
8. Find the Feelings
Oftentimes people overeat to fill an emotional void. Do you see a pattern of binge eating? Try to figure out what your child is really hungry for. Stress, anger, depression, and anxiety are a few of many intense emotions your child may be feeling. Talk with her to learn what is really going on. Brainstorm healthier ways to cope.
9. Offer A Shoulder to Lean On
At the end of the day you want to be the shoulder that your child comes to for a hug. Support your daughter as she makes lifestyle changes for a healthier way of living. Motivate her if she becomes discouraged or frustrated. Celebrate each success along the way, no matter how small it may seem.