In part 1 I wrote about some of the factors that make it difficult for parents to talk to their children about weight and health issues. In this post I would like to provide some tips on how to talk to your child about weight. How you speak to your children may be more important than what you say. It may be good to take some time to reflect on how we communicate with our children when talking about weight and health issues.
Make talking about healthy eating and exercise habits part of your regular conversations. You do not need to have a big talk about eating and exercise habits. Talking about healthy eating and regular exercise should be an ongoing conversation. As a parent, you may care more than your children about the health risks associated with being overweight. Whenever the opportunity arises, talk with your children about the choices they can make to select healthy foods and exercise. Some of these times may be when you are grocery shopping, or making dinner together. Another time you can have these conversations is when you are being physically active together as a family. I have found that I have really good conversations with my children when we are exercising or playing together. Stress levels tend to be lower and my kids are more open to talking about the choices they are making.
If your child is struggling with weight issues offer to work together. Working together helps to create a supportive environment for your child. Be available to listen to your child during times of frustration. Celebrate your child’s successes no matter how small they may seem.
Parents need to model healthy behaviors for their children. Parents need to create an environment at home that makes it easy to eat healthy and be physically active. Keep healthy snacks in the house. Limit the amount of soda or other sugary drinks in your home. Be aware of what you are eating and the portion sizes of your meals. Model an active lifestyle to your children. Limit your time in front of the computer and television. Be physically active with your children. Find activities you can do together as a family. We have several programs that you can use to help get your family fit.
Be aware of the language that you use about weight. Avoid labeling people as “fat” or making negative stereotypes about people who are overweight. Use words like “above average weight” rather than “chubby” or “obese”.
Be aware of the comments that you make about your own body in front of your children. Moms tend to make more negative comments about their bodies (for example, a mom might say “these pants make me look fat”). When children hear these negative comments, it can send a negative message about body image and self-esteem.
These are just a few pointers but I believe it is important to think about how you speak to your children. Think about the words you use. Think about how you approach the topic of weight management. Look for the right opportunities when you can talk to your children about making healthy choices. Remember that a lot of time actions speak louder than words.