Tips for Parents
Be the solution, not the problem: Scrutinize your own attitudes and thoughts about weight, shape and body image. Be honest, truthful and forthcoming with yourself. Then, consider how these feelings and prejudices might be communicated to your children in your attitudes (ie) negativity about weight or size; comments (ie) fat-centric words or phrases; or non-verbal responses (ie) wincing at the sight of an obese stranger.
Be a role model at the dinner table first; the dressing room second: Do your best to encourage and “model” healthy eating by being sensible and moderate in all meals. Appreciate the difference and uniqueness in the way your clothes fit you.
Listen before speaking;then speak carefully. Words spoken in haste to very sensitive individuals can hurt for years, and maybe a lifetime, while paying lip service to a child’s real and apparent concerns is equally damming. Take seriously what your child is saying, feeling, and doing, not simply how they look.
Move it or lose it!: Help your child to understand how great it feels to be active and to enjoy what their bodies can do for them. Engage in active family time.
Self matters!: Do whatever you can to promote self-esteem and self-respect of your children in intellectual, athletic, and social endeavors.
Censorship vs. Common sense: Make a commitment to help children understand and resist ways in which television, magazines, and other media distort the true diversity of human body types.
Honest, inviting Dialogue: Talk about different body types and how they can all be accepted and appreciated.
Moderate exercise: Learn how moderate exercise promotes stamina and cardiovascular fitness. The goal is to use exercise as a path to better health, not a quick fix to slim down, tighten up, get buff, or become beautiful.
Nutrition: Learn about the importance of eating a variety of foods in well-balanced meals and snacks consumed throughout the day. Seek professional guidance from a nutritionist. Fad diets don’t work!
Equal opportunities bring more opportunities...for all: Provide boys and girls the same opportunities and encouragement.
Love your child unconditionally no matter their shape, weight, or size: Your child’s shape, weight and/or size does NOT define them any more then their hair, eye or lip gloss color. Love begins from the inside out - not the other way around!
...Label food as “good”, “safe” or “bad”, “dangerous” or “fattening”: These terms are relative and misleading. This only further empowers food to an unrealistic status.
...Comment on weight or body types (yours, your child’s or anyone else’s): Insults, stereotypes, or labels about weight or body types often slip out because they are one of our last “acceptable prejudices.
...Diet or encourage your child to diet: Diets do more harm than good. If you are trying to lose weight, do it on your own, and don’t make your child an observer or participant.
...Set parameters like “finish what’s on your plate” or “you’ve had enough”: Allow your child to determine when (s)he is full.
...Use food as a prize or penalty: Food is neither a reward nor punishment. Don’t use it as such.
...Make negative comments while weighing your child: I recommend leaving the weighing up to the child’s physician or dietician and taking this responsibility out of your hands altogether. This will allow the family to keep the parent-child relationship in tact. (for a more detailed explanation of this, please contact Dr. Mendelsohn)
...Foster a climate of tolerance for teasing, name-calling, blame-gaming or ridicule: Do not allow siblings, friends, neighbors, or other adults call your child names, even if they’re so-called “harmless” like “chubs” or “tubby”. Teasing, like this is not cute, and does more harm than it will ever do good. Allowing one family member to be the butt of jokes taints the entire family.
...Limit your child’s caloric intake unless a physician requests that you do so due to a medical condition: Caloric deprivation is not the answer to weight loss nor a better life.
…Make body shape, beauty, weight or size an issue: Instead, model healthy behavior. Lead by example with health as the goal, not unattainable beauty.
...Avoid activities simply because they call attention to your child’s weight and shape (ie) swimming, sunbathing, dancing, etc.: The family that plays together stays together.
...Imply that girls are inferior to boys: Boys and girls should both be encouraged to do housework as well as learning to mow the lawn. (traditional female and male roles)
...Use weight as a condition for love: Never tell your child, “I’ll love you even more if you would just love a few pounds.” Or, “If you would just look a little prettier/more masculine, I’d love you more.” Such messages can inflict a lifetime of damage.