Many parents are concerned about their child’s eating or their child’s weight. There are statistics that 1 in 3 kids are overweight or obese. It is a different world today than when many of us were kids. There is less activity: kids are spending a lot of time on the internet, on their phones, or playing video games. We all seem to be under more stress and pressure, including our kids. In addition, we do not always eat in the healthiest manner for many reasons (stress, time, or finances).
There was a study of kids aged 5-10 who had been classified as overweight or obese and had been referred to a clinic for treatment by their pediatricians. The study found that the majority of parents (93.5%) recognized their child was overweight or obese, but 30% said they did not see their child’s weight as a problem, and they had not made any changes in the child’s lifestyle or eating. So, it can be tough to take action around food issues even when we know there is a problem.
I know you have the best interest of your child in mind, and dealing with food, weight and overeating can be tough to manage.
Do you wonder if your child has issues with food or their weight? Here are some common warning signs:
- Your child has gained a significant amount of weight (more than would be expected given growth spurts) and their clothes are not fitting.
- Your child is being teased for their weight.
- Your child hides, sneaks or is overly focused on food.
- Your child would rather spend their time on the computer, texting, playing video games or watching television rather than being active or with others.
- A family member or the pediatrician is concerned about your child’s weight.
- Your child is upset about their weight.
The starting spot is to recognize there is a problem and to take action. Here are some steps to take to address this issue:
- Listen carefully when your child discusses their weight and then ask them open ended questions (these are questions where they cannot answer with just a yes or no) about what they think and how they feel.
- Know that food issues can be related to emotions and feelings that your child is trying to manage through the use of food.
- Consider addressing any weight issues you have, so you do not unknowingly pass on your feelings about yourself.
- Look at how the family is behaving and address the issue more globally. If the kids eat lots of unhealthy snacks, maybe get everyone together to make some more healthy changes. If the family is not active, plan a family activity outside. Make video games and phone time a privilege with time limits. Declare the television be turned off during meal and snack time (time focused on electronic devices creates the opportunity for mindless eating).
- Meet with your pediatrician, nutritionist, or counselor who can help you get to a healthier lifestyle. Be sure to look for someone who specializes in eating issues.
As a parent it can be tough to address your child’s food and weight issues. You might feel concerned about your child’s potential immediate or future health risks or even their quality of life. I highly suggest you refrain from any negative comments about your child’s weight or body, as this only makes them want to eat more to comfort themselves. Lastly, refrain from putting your child on a restrictive diet. Restrictive diets set kids up for overeating and even more secretiveness and obsessive behavior with food.
If you are concerned about your child, know there is help in terms of information and professionals who specialize in eating issues. You are not alone. Become aware of the many strategies to deal with kids and food issues and reach out for help, as necessary. Addressing your child’s food issues now will set them up for success in their future. They will learn that food is nutrition to fuel their bodies and promote healthy activity and a better body image.
Kim McLaughlin, MA is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in helping people with eating issues and eating disorders. If you are concerned that about overeating, weight or your use of food in general please contact her here. Sign up for her FREE Top Tips to End Emotional Eating here. Check out her website at www.FeedYourSoulTherapy.com.