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husbands would agree that to hear that question from their wife is akin to being
asked to boil oneself in oil. However, what about when a child asks or needs to
recently reported (July 2006), the American Medical Association and the Center
for Disease Control have been discussing just how to inform a child and parents
when a child’s weight is greater than appropriate for age, height and gender.
At issue is upsetting the child or family if they are told directly that the
child is obese. Hence they are considering adopting the terms, “at risk of
overweight” when body mass index is in the 85th - 94th percentile for their sex
and age, and “overweight” when body mass index exceeds the 94th
percentile. Of concern to their position, is that by being indirect about the
issue, the child and parents may not take the situation as seriously as
necessary and the child’s health may thus be compromised.
above discussion occurs in a context where obesity rates in America have more
than doubled in the past 30 years and today’s children and youth may not live
as long as their parents for no other reason but for their obesity. Obesity
leads to coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
stands in stark contrast to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia and it
may be that in view of these disorders, parents and professionals alike are
actually afraid of harping on weighty kids, fearing the pendulum may swing in
those directions. Further, with so much talk about self-esteem, there is also
concern that direct discussion on matters of weight might cause children to feel
poorly about themselves.
seems the pendulum has so swung in favour of concern for psychological processes
that physical health is now compromised. The challenge is to bring both into
balance where neither physical nor psychological health be put at risk.
regard to obesity, it is perhaps best then if taken out of the realm of
psychology and treated as the medical issue it is. As we similarly are
forthright about other medical conditions our children face, so too should we be
forthright about obesity. Children need to learn about appropriate nutrition,
diet, health, exercise and self-care. If their weight is greater than
appropriate, they should receive reasonable feedback and direction to remedy the
condition, just as they would any other medical concern.
the long run, self-esteem is a function of being valued. Concern for a child’s
medical well-being is an indicator to the child of being valued despite any
upset that may be felt in the moment. Further, concern for the longevity and
health of a child is about as caring a gesture a parent can make. Lastly, it is
actually more difficult to feel good about oneself as a child if weight causes
the child to be ostracized or causes the child to be left behind in physical
issue is therefore not to tell the child or not to be forthright, but utilize
sensitivity and provide support and solutions to aid the child in the pursuit of
a healthy weight and lifestyle.
forthright; don’t let weight be an indicator of the child’s worth or value
to you the parent; support reasonable nutrition, diet, health and exercise. Your
child will be physically better off and for sure they will know they are loved.
We only take such good care of those things we hold dear.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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