We all dread the day our children come to us with that question... you know the one: "Mom, Dad, am I fat?"
Not the question you were thinking about? Or maybe, deep down, it was. According to a recent WebMD/Sanford Health survey, parents of teens said that they find it more difficult to talk about weight with their child than talking about sex, drugs, alcohol or smoking.
Weight is increasingly becoming a top concern for parents. Another survey, this one from the University of Michigan, found childhood obesity is the second most important concern parents have regarding their child's health, second only to a lack of exercise.
So, why the fear? And why, even though one in three children has overweight or obesity, do parents struggle to find the right words to say in response to a whole host of issues a child may raise about weight, issues that range from confusion over a child's BMI scorecard to a child who's been teased about her weight at school?
There is no doubt the weight discussion is uncomfortable and complex, but at a time where obesity is one of the most pressing health conditions in our society, and a child with overweight or obesity is 10 times more likely to become an adult with overweight or obesity, it is a discussion that cannot be ignored.
To help facilitate this conversation, the STOP Obesity Alliance, in collaboration with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, released a guide to help parents respond to challenging and unanticipated questions about weight from their kids. "Weigh In: Talking to Your Children About Weight and Health" is a free conversation guide that offers parents "real-world" situations and plain language responses to questions about weight issues including understanding BMI, body image, bullying, weight bias and family obesity. This research-based guide, reviewed by experts from a cross-section of fields including pediatrics, obesity research, psychology and stigma, provides a framework to better equip parents and caregivers to talk about weight and health in ways that are factual, meaningful and compassionate.
Every parent-child relationship is unique, and only a parent can know what will work best for his or her child. Not every suggestion in the guide will be relevant or appropriate for every family, but the hope is that it can spark a supportive, loving dialogue rooted in important facts about weight and health.
Fostering productive conversations about weight and health is critical. Parents must be active participants in improving the health of our nation's youth, so I encourage you to share this new resource with other parents and caregivers and across your social networks.
Let me know in the comments section about your tactics for this conversation. Did you try out the guide and did it help with your conversations? I look forward to hearing about these important discussions and hope the guide helps to make you feel a little more prepared.