Get Pscyhed Friday: What If Only One Child is Overweight?
Friday, October 12, 2012
Another great topic from psychologist Eleanor Mackey on the importance of fairness when it comes to eating.
On the topic of healthful eating and families, I have a lot of families ask me how to be “fair” when feeding their kids, especially those with seemingly different needs.
Kids of all ages are very aware of what is “fair.” Parents know this because they are very familiar with the refrain, “it’s not fair!” and often struggle to parent each child appropriately while maintaining the illusion of equal treatment in front their children. The good news is, although on many things individual children do require individual treatment (for example, the same consequences and rewards don’t always work for all children), food is one thing that parents can and should be “fair” about.
Parents often ask me, particularly if they have one child who has weight concerns:
How can I manage one child’s weight if my other children don’t have a weight problem? Here’s my advice
What are some healthful things we can do as a family?
- Health is health! Really, good nutrition is the same for all children (and adults) regardless of their weight.
- Provide everyone with healthful choices.
- Model appropriate portion sizes and the idea that one can stop eating when one is full – there is no need to clean the plate!
- Discuss the importance of keeping the family healthy and how everyone should eat well and get exercise – our weight is the least relevant part of the equation.
- Don’t single a child out for their weight or tell other children that something is “off limits” because of their sibling.
- Skip the sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages (including juice)! Have water instead.
- Serve food on plates (not family-style) at meals. Start with small portions and allow people to get seconds in small portions if they are still hungry.
- Allow unlimited consumption of vegetables if a child complains he or she is still hungry after a meal.
- Have family meals! Modeling good eating habits and having an enjoyable time at family meals has many positive benefits.
- Exercise together and make it fun! Have races, take walks, play games together. Don’t make it feel like a chore; rather, make it special time as a family.
- Teach your children how to cook healthful foods. Studies show that the more engaged kids are with food preparation, the more accepting they will be of new foods.
If you are worried about your child’s weight, talk to your pediatrician.
Children’s National has a clinic for children and adolescents who are obese. If you think you may need additional help, contact the IDEAL Clinic at Children’s National at 202-476-7200.
What are some ways you can make healthful eating and exercise fun for your family?
About the Expert
Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist and works primarily with the Obesity Institute and Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Mackey is also a mother of two young girls. She has been at Children’s National since 2006 and has been a regular contributor to our “Get Psyched Friday” features since 2012.