Overweight Kids

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Overweight Kids

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My daughter is overweight and she is very sensitive and gets upset with me when I offer advice. What should I do?

Many believe that bully behaviors are confined to school yard taunts and teases. Unfortunately, some teens return home to face further humiliation especially if they happen to be overweight. Parents often have difficulty approaching their adolescent about any sensitive subject, but weight issues appear to be particularly misunderstood.

Adults, in some instances, may actually “bully” their children unaware they are eroding self esteem. Pet names of endearment that focus on body image are often internalized as criticisms. Helpful hints such as diet more, eat less, eat only half, and avoid sweets may appear helpful, yet overweight teens resent these types of suggestions. These common knowledge comments are too general and tend to drive teens away from the trusted adults in their life. Not knowing who to talk to, many will retreat to the privacy and stress free environment of their bedroom to indulge in hidden snacks.

If your teenager is overweight, the first thing to do is seek professional help. Meet with your pediatrician to determine if a medical concern such as diabetes or a thyroid issue could be the cause of excessive weight gain. After physical problems have been ruled out, seek the assistance of a therapeutic professional. Kids often eat in response to some type of stressor. If the issue can be identified, better coping strategies can be taught.

Consider that you may be modeling poor eating habits. If mom and dad load up on extra calories, your kids will do the same. At dinner time, parents should cook healthy well balanced meals. Instead of allowing family members to serve themselves, make plates with sensible portions.

Plan fun and active family outings that everyone will enjoy. Overweight kids often have negative attitudes toward exercise because their weight may make it difficult to participate. PE class and sports are avoided because obese teens fear peer perceptions and bully comments. Parents should engage kids in lively activities that encourage movement and promote coordination. Take a family bike ride in the park, throw a ball in the backyard, or learn to ice skate.

Most importantly, accept your teen for who she is and be sensitive to her needs. Be aware that your daughter’s weight issues may surface a personal issue about body image. In fact, your adolescent, may be okay with her appearance. Have a discussion to understand how you teen views herself and what you can do to support her.

The most effective way to help overweight teens is through positive support. Scaring your kids into losing weight does more harm than good often causing angst ridden adolescents to become depressed, anxious, or eating disordered. Parents can’t control what happens at school, but you can create a positive and safe home environment.