Monday, September 20, 2010
Here's something to pay attention to for a variety of reasons. Kids who are overweight have long term emotional scars from the teasing, bullying and downright abuse of their peers.
That's a total bummer for kids with extra pounds. Physical AND mental health are at risk. It's also a total bummer for parents who worry about them.
Naturally, it's important for parents to take the reins and help their children with good nutrition and exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic: "Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to health problems that were once confined to adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Childhood obesity can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression."
So speaking of self esteem and depression, what can be done about the put downs from peers?
No. 1: If you're a parent or any adult with kids in your life who are NOT overweight, don't allow them to call other kids Fat...or Tubby...or Blubber. Seriously, it's in the same category as saying "You're so gay." You may not think so, but just read the study and think again.
No. 2: If you're the parent of a child that's overweight, let this be motivation to you to start helping them with their health. It's hard, I know. Weight, like bullying, is complicated. It's a Tangled Ball. It's not just about restricting calories, it's about emotions which makes it one of the hardest parenting issues to handle. More often than not, there's a lot of frustrating baggage that makes it hard to help a child with a weight issue.
There's a site for teen girls who struggle with their weight called Fitsmi, as well as a companion separate site, Fitsmi for Moms. Fitsmi recognizes that girls need to have a safe place to be teens first. Girls with extra pounds have the same interests in fashion, boys, celebrities, and makeup as any girl (as well as sports, academics, etc., etc.). They just need a network of friends who know what it's like to be a plus size in a size 2 world. It's a place online where they're not judged and they can be honest. It's a source for good information, including tips on clothes and relationships as well as nutrition and exercise. (Boys should have their own site, too! But if you're a parent of a boy, advice on Fitsmi for Moms might still be helpful to you.)
Here's the key: no judging.
Nothing about this issue is simple, except this. Kids will bully kids who are overweight. (It's gotten out of hand. A child doesn't even have to be technically overweight to be teased by their peers.) When they do, they are stealing their childhood as well as risking their long term emotional health. It's our job as adults to stop it.