Editor, momstown Guelph
Parents must have the mindset that they are not solely to blame for their child's weight. I mean, let's face it, it could just be that child's genetic make-up. Since my husband and I are tall, big-boned, and definitely not scrawny, it only makes sense that our children will more than likely have our same body type and metabolism. We are, after all, related – IN A BIG WAY!
Parents, due to pressures unknown, have a guilty conscious that tells them that they have created an overweight child through their own poor eating habits, physical activity, and, that it is only related slightly to heredity. These pressures are caused by what society is telling them. Society deems the parents as being the main source of childhood obesity. According to the media, in January 2012, Poll Position surveyed more than 1100 adults by phone asking them their opinion on the causes of childhood obesity. More than 60% polled placed the blame partly or totally with the parents! So, it only makes sense that when we watch the commercials or see posters depicting an obese child who is obese as a result of his parent's neglect of a healthy lifestyle, we blame ourselves – as caregivers.
Childhood obesity is viewed as a serious problem in our society. When we look at statistics, they show that "30% of children and adolescents, aged 2-19, are overweight or obese." (see reference below) With this in mind, and the fact that we hear it everywhere, makes childhood obesity seem like an epidemic that needs to be solved right away. And, if parents are to blame, we tend to overcompensate and go to the extreme with our children and become a patrol for every little bit of weight that they gain. However, this 'drill-sergeant' approach when promoting a healthy lifestyle,
and making healthy choices with our children, can perhaps, do more harm than good.
Let's face it, childhood obesity is a problem. But, it is not just parents who are to blame. The rushed lifestyles that we entail, give way to eating fast food on the run and filling up fast food chains everywhere. Then, we can't forget schools being bombarded with new sedentary technology, coupled with teachers being under great pressure to have high grade point averages in lieu of physical activity. All of this sheds a new light on who in the world contributes to childhood obesity.
So, what can we, as parents, and society at large, do about childhood obesity?
Well, first of all, I think that we should stop focusing too much on our child's weight and avoid taking on distorted societal views about what is to be the 'perfect body shape and size', for our young children. This, sadly, can often can be harmful to their health, both physically and emotionally. Take, for example, the anorexic teenager who has suffered with low self-esteem all of her life, and was told that she was overweight more than once. The people in her life have obviously given her a distorted view about food, and what a healthy body should look like. So, now you have a teenager with serious mental health issues, and physical health issues, as a result of you (and society) focusing too much on her weight and appearance.
When I was a young girl, I had a grandma who was wonderful and sweet, and who also ate soup broth for every meal. She, obviously, was always concerned about her weight, and weighed in at a 'hefty' 98 pounds all of the years that I knew her. She was also about 4 feet tall, and had a petite body size – to say the least. Her body structure was entirely different from mine, as I have always had a larger frame and am a much taller person. My grandma, though, which I didn't realize at the time, must have been concerned with my growing body, since pretty much every time I went to visit her she would throw me on the weight scales. I didn't really think of it much at the time, because she would never tell me what not to eat, and she always had baked goods, and chocolates by the barrel-full in her home. However , when I reflect on that, and the fact that my dad would teasingly joke about my protruding tummy on occasion, I wonder if that may have played a small role in my mild eating disorder that I developed in my university years. It might have been that, combined with other issues that I was dealing with in my life, at the time, as well as societal standards and pressures.
I think that we can often give our children mixed signals about what they should and shouldn't eat, and how they look in comparison to others (peers, and people in the media, et cetera). By giving our children these mixed signals about what 'healthy' means, we give them a distorted view of what they should and shouldn't look like, and the healthy choices the they should be making, based on societal standards. This, it would seem, is all just because we want them to fit into the rest of society and BLEND in with the popular crowd.
As a mom now to four daughters, I am aware that we all come in different body sizes and shapes. My girls are shown the same healthy choices (both diet and physical activity), they mainly eat the same foods, and are involved in the same types of sports and fitness, but each of them maintain a different body shape and size. But, how? Well, it's simple. They were each created in their own special way.
This is what we, as parents need to know. Each person is not going to look the same as the social media depicts them to be. And, parents need to stop blaming themselves for the fact that their child is slightly overweight when in comparison to peers.
If, as parents, we are giving our children opportunities to live a healthy lifestyle, and modeling how to keep our bodies healthy, then, I think that we are doing our part.
Society, too, needs to stop forming a biased attitude towards overweight children and viewing it as a cause of parent's neglect. If anything, society needs to support and love all children and families, instead of shaming and 'bullying' them into eating disorders, and, hence, mental health issues.
Parents – I challenge you! Make it your mission this month (and beyond!) to promote healthy hearts and bodies in your young children. Stop focusing too much on their outward appearance and show your children that they are created as a special person – who is not like anyone else. It is their hearts, after all, not their appearance, that is most important.
GET TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER…for better emotional and physical well-being in your child!
Lana Kelly( B.A, SSW, ECE, Montessori). For 20 years, Lana has been dedicated to helping children and families. In 2010, she published a book (The Sheepish Lamb) , aimed at building resilience to childhood anxiety. She is a mom to four daughters, and values her faith and family solidarity.
CHECK OUT THE HEART AND STROKE WEBSITE FOR HEALTHY LIVING ALL YEAR LONG TOO! IT IS FULL OF IDEAS!
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