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Healthy You

How to Talk To Your Kids about Their Weight

Friday, January 26, 2018 7:17 AM

As a parent, you love your children and want nothing more than for them to be happy and healthy. Sometimes, the healthy part can be tricky, from curing their annoying colds, to treating their broken bones and making sure they are at a healthy weight. Balancing the line between being concerned but positive when talking to your children about their weight can be hard.


The experts at NorthShore share ways you can support your children when discussing their weight.

  • Diet-free. The biggest point of the conversation should be health.  A non-diet approach means focusing on food as nourishment, planning meals, helping children recognize body signals of physical hunger and fullness, and promoting a positive body image. It is not a diet, it is a healthy lifestyle.
  • Keep healthy foods at home.  Your child will be choosing from foods that are available at home. Keep fresh fruits and vegetables easily accessible and avoid junk food. Eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages, like juice, sports drinks and soda. These should be consumed rarely and removed from the home.
  • What you say matters. Avoid focusing on appearance and using words such as “fat” and “skinny” as these can inflictpoor self-esteem. What matters to you, matters to them. Keep the focus on health and feeling good.
  • Encourage participation in sports or activities each child likes such as soccer, dance or horseback riding. This helps your children enjoy physical activities for fun, not for the purpose of losing weight or burning calories.
  • Make it a family affair. Parents are kids’ biggest role models and they pick up most of their habits from home. Cook your meals together, take after-dinner walks together or start a family game of basketball at a local park on the weekends. Vegetables should be a regular part of home-cooked meals and parents should model eating them, especially for young children.
  • Results don’t matter. Praise the effort, not the results. Do not celebrate the five-pound weight-loss; instead celebrate how much fun he or she is having on his or her team. Praise them for choosing an apple for a snack and for going for a swim with you.
  • Swap statements for questions. Our instinct is to respond to criticism with reassurance. Instead of saying things like, “You’re beautiful the way you are,” or “Everyone is different,” try asking why they are thinking about their weight or how they feel about their body. This will help you understand why they are feeling the way they are. Follow up with a question that helps them plan a solution. An example would be, “How do you think we as a family could be healthier?”

The NorthShore experts recommend avoiding having a “big” talk. Conversations about weight will happen in bits and pieces as they come up over time. Having a big talk about their weight makes it a big deal with expectations, which is why slowly implementing healthy habits over time is a better approach.