Talking with Your Child about Weight

Family Biking Together(September 19, 2017) - Talking about weight is never easy as both parents and kids may feel uncomfortable. However, talking with your children about healthy eating, physical activity, and how they feel about their weight is important for their wellbeing and overall health. As a parent, you can talk about weight without placing blame, causing guilt, or criticizing. The following tips will help you approach the conversation in a sensitive and constructive way. As your family starts the Children’s Wellness Program and throughout the program, please let us know if you would like more information on how to positively communication about weight.

Your Language

  • Focus on healthy behavior changes and use the word “healthy”
    • Take the focus off weight, weight loss, and appearance.
    • Encourage the behaviors you want your child to do. For example, try saying, “Let’s do fruit for your snack, then you can go outside and play,” instead of, “Stop sitting on the couch eating chips.” 
    • Talk about the benefits of becoming healthier by giving examples such as jumping higher, running faster, or focusing better in school. 
  • Avoid “should” statements and offer a healthy option instead
    • Instead of saying, “You shouldn’t eat that,” try saying, “Let’s wait another 20 minutes and then decide if you’re still hungry.” 
  • Keep food positive
    • Do not forbid or force any foods: offer healthy foods and limit exposure to unhealthy foods. 
    • Keep only foods that you want your child to eat in the house. 
    • Do not criticize your child’s eating habits or compare children to one another. 
  • Ask how your child is feeling
    • Ask open-ended questions that start with where, what, and how to encourage your child to share feelings. 
    • For example, ask, “How do you feel about the healthy changes we are making?” or “Who did you sit with at lunch today?”
    • Be there to listen and let your child know that whatever he is feeling is okay. 
  • Provide praise
    • Praise your child when he makes healthy decisions. 
    • Reward your child for reaching healthy habit goals without using food. Some examples include stickers, special activities, or choosing what game to play at family game night. 
    • Praise your child for non-weight related accomplishments. 

Your Family’s Role

  • Do not allow negative body talk 
    • Do not allow any family members to talk negatively about their weight or anyone else’s. 
    • Be conscious what you say about your own weight. Avoid comments such as, “I feel fat in these jeans.”
  • Involve the whole family
    • Children are more likely to improve their health behaviors if other family members are as well. 
    • Use the word “we” so your child knows the entire family is involved. Everyone needs to be active and eat healthy every day. 
    • Serve the same foods to the whole family. 
    • Make mealtime enjoyable by talking about positive things. 
  • Love your child 
    • Reassure your children that your love and their value has nothing to do with looks or body size. 
    • Compliment your child on qualities like creativity, a fun personality, and kindness. 
    • Be available for your child in both times of celebration and frustration.