Are you concerned about child obesity in your family? The American Heart Association reports that about one in three American children (including teens) is overweight or obese, a figure that has nearly tripled over the last 50 years. Children are considered obese when they weigh at least 10 percent more than what's recommended for their height and body type, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. The condition contributes to a range of health issues, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes, which used to be mainly suffered by adults. Obesity may also affect your child emotionally and lead to a negative body image, low self-esteem, and even depression.
It goes without saying that you should set a good example yourself by staying active, eating well, and having more healthy food and less junk food around your home. But if you are unsure how to raise the issue with your kids without hurting their feelings and making the situation worse -- follow these tips to have an effective, loving conversation:
- Stay positive. It's vital that you stay positive and uplifting instead of demonizing your children's symptoms or eating habits. Don't focus on telling them what they can't do. Instead, talk more about what can be done to fight obesity through healthy eating habits. Praise your kids for good eating habits to instill positive reinforcement during and after your conversation. If you're not positive, your kids will have a hard time being positive, as well.
- Focus on health, rather than weight and food. According to Psychology Today, "Phrases that focus on the person's body or eating habits can make your loved one feel defensive... Try to keep the discussion focused on the real issue, which is concern for overall health and life quality." Don't focus on physical weight, clothing sizes, physical appearance, or even the poor food choices that your kids make. It's much more helpful to keep the conversation light and focused on good health and nutrition and how they can make a person feel better overall.
- Talk to your child from a purely loving standpoint. Tell your children that you want to talk about obesity and healthy eating habits because you want what's best for them, which is to have the healthiest and happiest life possible. Remind your kids that you love them no matter what and that they are very special and important to you. Be empathetic and compassionate, offering words of love and support as you navigate through this sensitive subject. Listen attentively to what your child has to say, and be responsive.
- Have the discussion before child obesity strikes. The best way to treat illnesses is prevention. Having a discussion about obesity with your kids before weight issues come into play can save them from the physical and emotional effects that obesity causes.
Remember that you are your kids' best asset when it comes to good health because you know them best and understand how to communicate with them. Using these tips and communication techniques that you've used in the past to inform your conversation, you can engage your children in an issue that will be relevant for their entire lives.