By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor
When it comes to discussing weightier matters with kids, parents and kids are shying away from one huge topic. No, it’s not sex, or smoking, drinking, or even drugs. The conversation most likely to make both a parent and child cringe is talking about a child's weight.
Not good news in a nation where a third of our kids are already overweight or obese, where our kids have shorter life expectancies because they'll suffer from diseases related to obesity.
According to a “Raising Fit Kids” survey conducted by the WebMD/Stanford University FIT program, 22 percent of parents are uncomfortable talking about the risks and consequences of being overweight. Surprisingly, other prickly parent-child topics that make moms and dads wince don’t rank nearly as high. For parents of teens, sex ranked second place (12 percent), smoking and drugs third (6 percent), and alcohol placing fifth on the “uncomfortable” meter (5 percent) – basically trailing way behind.
Could this be one of the unspoken culprits behind our nation’s weight problem? Perhaps, but sadly, avoiding the topic is only part of the issue. As a great blog (that I love), School in Sports, reported on the matter this week, 37 percent of parents worry that at least one of their kids will be overweight – and the parents recognize the health issue as a threat, just like drinking and early sexual activity. The problem with this number is two-fold. One: At current rates, about 37 percent of parents are right – their kids are on the path to obesity. Two: This number seems really low to me. Is it just a case of severe underreporting? And if so, does this mean parents are reluctant to even answer that they’re worried about this issue?
Otherwise, why not address this head on and have honest talks with our kids about the risks of being overweight? Maybe it's not just the taboo nature of the topic, but because it's complicated. You don’t want to make your child feel bad. You don’t want to risk pushing your child the other way into anorexia, bulimia, or any eating disorder. Plus, what if your gene pool proves that it’s not usually an issue? In my family, for example, we all tended to grow up, then out, then up, then out, so my relatives have seen no need to give their kids a complex just because an awkward growth spurt gives a lanky kid a bout of chubbiness. But I guess we’re part of this problem, too. Nationwide, maybe parents are picking up on a very real vibe from their kids: 72 percent of the kids surveyed said a discussion about their weight with their parents would be more embarrassing for them than it would be for their parents.
Experts quoted on WebMD urge parents to make healthy weight discussions part of their kids’ daily lives early on, no matter what your child’s body type. But obviously it’s not that easy. So please tell me: How are you handling this discussion at home? Are you talking about it openly, sneaking in little lessons, modeling behavior, or avoiding the subject altogether? And if you have a great strategy, please share it – obviously we could all use a little help with this one.