The most important thing you can do to help an overweight child is to let them know that they are okay whatever their weight might be. Children’s feelings about themselves are often based on their parents’ feelings about them. If you accept your children at any weight, they will be more likely to accept and feel good about themselves.
It is very important to communicate with your child about his or her weight, allowing them to voice their thoughts and concerns with you. Your child is aware that he or she has a weight problem. For this reason, overweight children need support, acceptance, and encouragement from their parents.
One way to show support is to lead by example. All too often parents critique, or harp on their children about their weight when they are far from healthy. If a parent does not practice self-control or adopt a healthy lifestyle, how can they expect their child to do so.
Teamwork – Make It a Family Affair
Do not set children apart because of their weight, but focus on gradually changing the family’s physical activity and eating habits. Family involvement will help to teach everyone healthful habits and does not put added pressure on the overweight child. As a family you can incorporate games and weekly challenges without having winners and losers. Charting exercise and clean eating habits as a team can help the family as a whole. If a child is struggling in one area, encouraging words from every family member can make the obstacles that the child faces a little less challenging.
Exercise as a Family
Regular exercise plus healthy eating habits is the most efficient and healthy way to control your family’s weight. It is also an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Some easy ways to increase your family’s physical activity include the following:
- Be an example for your children. If your children see that you are physically active and having fun, they are more likely to be active and stay active for years to come.
- Plan family activities that provide everyone with exercise and enjoyment like walking, dancing, biking, or swimming. For example, schedule a walk with your family after dinner instead of watching TV.
- Take classes together at a local gym or community center.
- Spend a Saturday as a family playing a basketball or flag football at the park.
Be considerate of your overweight child and their specific needs. Overweight children may feel embarrassed about participating in certain activities. It is important to help your child find physical activities and exercises enjoyable. Try to do things that are not too difficult or uncomfortable. Here are a few tips to help your overweight child:
- Reduce the amount of time you and your family spend in front of the TV, playing video games and spending time on the computer.
- Be more active throughout your day and encourage your family to do so as well. For example, walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, or do some activity during a break at work or school.
- Talk about your progress as individuals and as a family often. During dinner share what exercises and activities were accomplished for that day. Chart your progress as a family.
The point is not to make exercise and physical activity a hassle or a chore. Make the most of the opportunities you and your family have to be active.
Teach Your Family Healthy Eating Habits
Teaching healthy eating practices early will help children have a positive attitude about eating healthy for a lifetime. It will become second nature and children will enjoy these healthy foods. They will understand that food should be enjoyed and is necessary for growth, development and for energy to keep the body running.
Take cooking classes as a family, or even informative classes on healthy eating. Maybe swap out one unhealthy food for a healthier choice every week, making the change gradual. Making changes gradually can lead to habits, which lead to a lifestyle. Trying to help our children understand that exercise, healthy eating, and clean living is a lifestyle. If this has not been a choice parents have made, then making it as a family and establishing habits that turn into a life full of better, healthier choices can be very rewarding and it can also bring the family closer together.
If your family is a larger one, you could choose to use a buddy system where two members of the family help each other out. The most important thing that I can not stress enough is make it fun, don’t give up, and remain positive. This will help to make the changes stick, and there isn’t anything more rewarding than making changes that prolong the individual lives of each family member!