This post is in recognition of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.
Addressing obesity in adults is already tough, but it can be even tougher to address obesity in our children. What are its causes? What are its health impacts? Given the prevalence of obesity stigma, what can families and caregivers do to help?
In this post, we’re going to provide some answers to this last question. But if you want to learn more about childhood obesity, Click Here for OAC resources.
You Are Not Alone.
Childhood obesity is a family matter, and parents and caregivers play a crucial role in helping children navigate their health in all its different aspects.
Today, about 1 in 5 children in America (more than 18%) are affected by or have obesity. If this includes a child in your family, know that you are not alone. Other families are facing similar challenges and share similar experiences. The OAC is also here to empower you, provide education, and equip you to help your child take control of their health.
What Do I Say?
Parents and caregivers may hesitate to talk about weight with children for fear of hurting their feelings. However, research shows that children, especially girls as young as five years old, are aware of their size and whether they have excess weight. This does not mean a conversation is not necessary, though. It is easy for children to get the wrong message about weight, size, and health.
Having a conversation about weight is best done with a compassionate approach. The goal shouldn’t be to single your child out or make them feel like they are “less than” or a “problem” because of their weight. Instead, the conversation should focus on improving health as a family unit.
Here are some phrases that may be helpful in a conversation:
- Working together to be healthy
- Healthy habits
- Healthy food is fuel.
- Physical activity feels good.
Here are some words NOT to use in a conversation:
- Junk food
- No TV/computer
What Can I Do?
If your child struggles with their weight, they are probably already aware of this and might be too afraid to ask for help. Before having any conversation about weight and health, make sure your child knows that you are there to support them, not to judge them.
Here are some tips moving forward:
- Emphasize that health, not size, is what matters.
- Model healthy habits and behaviors in your own lifestyle.
- Encourage doing things together as a family, like making new recipes, going on walks and bike rides, or taking a trip to the farmer’s market for fresh produce.
- Don’t criticize weight, body shape, or size in yourself, your child, any friend or family member, or anyone in general!
- Emphasize that health is a lifelong journey at any stage in life.
- Focus on your child’s strengths and interests.
- If your child is being teased about their weight, let them know that talking about it with you is safe and you are there to help.
- Talk to your child’s pediatrician about additional resources and tools.
Additional Childhood Obesity Resources
Don’t forget that OAC and our partners have other resources on childhood obesity that can help your family, including information about causes, treatments, and solutions. Click Here to explore our archives.