In this day and age in which the media has exposed the epidemic of childhood obesity and associated diabetes, it is impossible for parents to not be more attuned to this issue with their children. For better and worse, we have access to data, research and information like never before. This is clearly the case in the area of food, nutrition and physiology. No doubt, understanding the implications of how we feed our bodies and how we move our bodies is invaluable information. What can often be a difficult task is translating this information into utilizable material that our children can understand.
As parents, we must be persistently aware of, not just the information we deliver, but HOW we deliver it. Sometimes being accurate is not enough to help children benefit. Sometimes accurate information can be useless, if not harmful, when delivered ineffectively. In trying to educate children about food, weight, nutrition and healthy eating, we must be sensitive to the subtle nuances in our delivery. We, as parents and caretakers, must be aware of how we deliver potentially embarrassing or shameful material to children.
Phillip says to his mother, “Amanda told me that I’m fat. I want to lose some weight. How much should I lose?” “Well,” said her mom, “Dr. Speilman said on your last check up that you could stand to lose five pounds. Why don’t we start there?” Phillip agrees and quietly walks away. Conversation over? Hardly. For all practical purposes, Phillip’s mother likely feels like this was a good opportunity for her to address his pediatrician’s concern about his childhood obesity. She probably feels relieved that someone else did her the service of alleviating her of hurting her son’s feelings. What she failed to realize is that she delivered the confirming “blow” to Phillip’s self esteem.
In discussing matters of this nature, it is essential to realize the subtle impacts you may have. It is more fruitful to address the biological and medical aspects of this discussion and to STEER CLEAR OF NUMBER OF POUNDS! For example, you might address blood elevations such as cholesterol or pulse as the impetus for change, or simply the concept of supporting the development of a healthy heart that will “take care of you,” or “keep your body strong for the rest of your life.” By externalizing the issue of childhood obesity, you reduce the sensitive issue of self-esteem or physical acceptance. Further, you engage your child in a process about which your child can be more curious and motivated.