Discussing food and activity with older kids and teens is difficult on many levels. However, experts note that hard or not, you shouldn’t ignore it if your teen is overweight, eats poorly or is inactive. Acknowledging these issues is important because you do want your child to be healthy and also avoiding it may result in your child looking for unhealthy ways to lose weight.
Are you worried about your older child or teen?
Maybe you’re already concerned about your child’s health. Then again, maybe you’re not sure what to look for. The issues below are red flags when it comes to child health. If your child has any of these red flags, you probably need to discuss your child’s health with his pediatrician and you also need to have some conversations with your child about food, exercise and weight….
- Your child is overweight.
- You have no idea what your child’s average weight should be.
- You have no idea how much your child weighs.
- Your older child or teen has a big belly – this is a major health red flag for kids and teens.
- Your child is sitting and inactive most of the time or all of the time.
- When your child is active, he can’t keep up with you or other kids.
- Your child runs out of breath after minimal exercise.
- Your child eats faster than everyone else at the table.
- Your child usually or always takes second helpings at meals.
- Your child skips meals.
- Your child gets overly upset about food or activity issues.
For a full list of red flags read - signs your child may be overweight.
Maybe you feel uncomfortable discussing these issues, so you simply haven’t brought it up, and you’re not alone. These are hard topics to discuss. Still, just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Below are some ideas about how to bring up weight, food and exercise with older kids and teens when everyone is new to the conversation.
Quick dos and don’ts
- Do talk about food and activity issues with kids from a young age.
- Don’t make food and activity issues about looks (as in skinny looks good, fat looks bad).
- Do clearly explain various tools kids and teens can use to make healthy choices such as portion sizes, nutrition labels, exercise guidelines.
- Don’t reward weight loss or healthy choices like exercise. Offer support and compliments but don’t reward good habits, or for that matter, punish bad ones.
- Do set healthy rules for the entire family. Don’t single kids out.
- Don’t avoid food and activity issues just because your child is an average healthy weight. All kids deserve to know about proper food and exercise.
- Do be patient with older kids and teens. If they haven’t been raised to make healthy food and activity choices, they need time to acclimate and change habits.
- Don’t label kids different, such as “Lisa is the thin sister and Ruth is the chubby sister,” or ”Chris is so healthy and Jim just sits around like he’s lazy.” You shouldn’t label kids period, but weight labels can be especially damaging.
- Do discuss any weight, nutrition and activity concerns with your child’s pediatrician.