Ask a Parent: overweight grandchild
Abilene Families Editor
QUESTION: How can I encourage my young, overweight grandchild to watch his weight without “scarring” him? Or should I not mention it?
Just provide healthy choices for the time that your grandchild is with you. Don't stock candy or junk in your cupboard; instead offer carrot sticks with ranch dip or celery with peanut butter and “ants-on-a-log” (raisins). Set a good example by eating healthy food yourself. Please don't single him or her out as “overweight”; depending on the child's age he/she may already be very aware of the problem. Take your grandchild(ren) to the park to fly a kite or ride bikes. Show them that a healthy lifestyle is fun!
– Karen Dillewyn
Make Snacks Fun
Start with fun snacks! You can even make them together. ‘Bugs on a Log’ is an old time favorite. Clean and cut your celery, fill the groove with peanut butter, and put the bugs (raisins) on. Most kids love fruit, and it’s easy to sneak in veggies. If you can do it with cookies – you can usually do it with fruit
– Roenna Thomas
Don't mention “diet” or “weight loss” – help the child to be more active – playing outside, riding a bike, rollerblading, playing at the park, etc. ... usually daily increased activity will help a young child as much as anything. Talk about being healthy and that fruit and veggies are healthy choices. Soft drinks with lots of sugar are not healthy. Try to keep the conversations positive and teach by example.
– Marka Riddle
Limit Junk Food
As a parent, I try to limit the amount of junk food and sodas I buy (or don’t buy!) at the store. And I stock plenty of ready-to eat, healthy snacks (small apples, grapes, baby carrot sticks) in the fridge that my 7-year-old can get anytime she wants. Also, evening walks or bike rides around the block are great for exercise and fun family time with your kids. Just some healthy lifestyle habits where you don’t even have to mention an “overweight” problem. – Celeste Kincade
Be A Role Model
Approach this as a health issue and try not to mention weight. Be a role model! Take walks together, ride bikes – get moving. Help your grandchild find something that he thinks is fun to do and not “exercise.” It's just math, really. Fewer empty calories in, along with activity, equals lower blood pressure, better sleep quality, increased muscle mass and decreased fat. Keep high fat/sugar foods out of the house. The hardest thing is portion control, so serve meals on smaller plates and encourage a glass of 2% or lower milk between meals – this really does help! Another habit we get into is buying gifts/presents/rewards that encourage a sedentary lifestyle such as DVDs, computers, handheld games and gaming systems, etc. The only exception to this is to buy a Wii if you can afford it – it comes with a disk with five games (baseball, boxing, tennis, golf and bowling) and are a BLAST! The boxing is a really good workout! It's something that you can do with your grandchild that's good for you, too. Good luck. Your grandchild is lucky to have you!.
– Allyson Solymosy
Help; Don’t Judge
Are you passing judgment or assuming responsibility? Passing judgment is a selfish act. If you judge your grandson, particularly if you have not been asked to do so, you are unlikely to be acting in his best interest. True love and friendship calls for acceptance, equality and understanding. On the other hand, love and friendship does call for responsibility. If you really care about someone, you have an obligation to consider his best interests. To a large extent, you'll know how best to approach him, but I would offer some guidelines:
o Rule out simply mentioning weight. Has anyone tried talking to him about his health? It would be surprising if he didn't care about his situation; instead, it is more likely either that he is afraid to face up to its significance, or he feels unable to do anything about it. Therefore, it's well worth offering to help, even at the risk of offending him.
o Knowing him as you do, what approach do you think would be most effective? Would he appreciate it if you meet him on your own, or would he feel more supported if all his family or friends show like-minded concern?
o Start by establishing a routine, even if it is difficult at first. This means a set time for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Once you have a routine for meals and snacks, meal times are more relaxed. Most children are happier on a schedule and become hungry at regular times. You'll feel happier about your parenting job when the family has a routine.
o Instead of rewarding the child with food, reward them with attention (hugs, kisses and smiles) and playful activities.
o Serve healthy food. As a parent, grandparent or concerned caretaker, your responsibility is to buy healthy groceries and serve nutritious food to growing children.
o Set a good example by eating healthy foods yourself! Buy and try new fruits and vegetables. Drink water between meals. Set an eating routine at home for your meals and snacks.
o Don't expect a child to like something new the first time. Offer it again in a week. It usually takes several tries before children are willing to try new foods.
o Place a small amount of each food on the children's plates. Let them ask for more.
o It's normal for children to explore foods. Young children often touch or smell the food on their plate.
o Avoid arguments about high-fat, high-sugar foods by not bringing them into the house. Leave the candy, soft drinks, chips and cookies at the store.
o Serve water when your child is thirsty. Water is cheap and healthy.
o Choose a variety of foods from several food groups. Children need to eat a variety of different foods every day. Use the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children to help guide your food choices.
o Part of having a healthy family includes spending time together. The family meal is a great way for everyone to get together, have a conversation, and eat together.
o An easy way to get children to try new foods is to get them involved in meals.
– Lori Bunton, New Horizon’s Families First program.
NEXT MONTH”S QUESTION:
My young teen has threatened to run away from home. He needs to be disciplined, but I am scared if I am too strict, he will follow through on his threat. What do I do?