Anita: The desire to be slim arises at an increasingly younger age. More and more often we see that children from the age of 6 are already preoccupied with how they look and are afraid of gaining weight. I regularly receive questions from parents who want to help their children eat healthier and feel good about themselves. I think it is an exciting subject that requires a lot of caution and gentleness. How you deal with this can have a huge impact on the rest of a child’s life.
10 TIPS TO SUPPORT YOUR CHILD WHEN OVERWEIGHT
If you see that your child is insecure and is gaining weight, the first thing you might think is that you just need to eat healthier. And although healthy eating is very important for every child, it can also be very valuable to teach your child how to deal with himself and his or her body. The sooner you start doing that, the more it will benefit later and the more self-confidence it will gain. These 10 tips will help you:
1) ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD TO TALK ABOUT FEELINGS
Be open and teach your child that it is important to share what they are feeling and experiencing. Also ask it to share how it looks at its body and how it feels about it. You help your child by telling about your body yourself and showing how grateful you are for everything your body does for you. Be attentive to what your child shares with you and together welcome any feelings and thoughts that may be there. Explain that every body is different and unique and beautiful just the way it is and that it is wonderful and special that everyone has a different body. Let your child know that you love him or her incredibly and that his body is perfect just the way it is.
2) LEAVE COMMENTS
Maybe you can remember from the past that someone once said something about how you looked. A comment that was probably made without any ulterior motive but that has stayed with you all your life. Receive your child in everything he or she says and always leave out your opinion or (negative) comment. Set a good example by talking positively about and to your body and don’t diet. Choose to eat healthy and feed yourself and you as a family with healthy and natural food.
3) TEACH YOUR CHILD TO CONTACT THE BODY
In the last few generations, most people have paid little attention to “feeling” and experiencing from the body, so we live a lot from our head. You can teach your child to listen to the signals the body gives them. Learn to really feel it and thereby bring attention to the body. Ask where he or she feels something and teach your child that it can put its hands where it feels something and ask the body what the feeling wants to tell and that the body knows everything. This way you teach your child to communicate with his or her body in a very pleasant way. Also teach your child to become aware of the signals the body gives when it is hungry. Your child learns that there is a lot of wisdom stored in the body and that it can listen to it.
4) TEACH YOUR CHILD HOW TO TAKE GOOD CARE OF HIS OR HER BODY
Do this playfully and in a child-friendly way. Tell your child that the body is the best friend they are with all their lives and together explore what it needs to feel good. Think of moving, but also rubbing in, touching, talking positively with and to it and taking good care of it by eating healthy.
5) TAKE ACTION WITH THE WHOLE FAMILY
Children learn very quickly. Especially if you give them a good example. They want to be like their parents because they are the most important people on earth for a child. If you see that your child is gaining weight and notice that it focuses a lot on unhealthy food, don’t talk too much about it, but adjust your lifestyle. Don’t make a thing of it, but make it as easy as possible for your child to eat healthy. Always have healthy food available and provide healthy snacks and water. A child adapts very quickly. Limit the time your child watches television or sits at the computer, but do fun activities together. Walk, play football in the garden, go cycling or to the woods. Children quickly like something if they get attention and can move nicely.
6) TEAM UP WITH YOUR PARTNER
Make sure you and your partner follow the same guidelines regarding eating, weight and exercise. If you both communicate and act differently, this can cause confusion for your child.
7) FOCUS ON HEALTH OVER WEIGHT
Forget the scales and focus on your child’s health. If you start eating healthier as a family, move more and spend less time behind the television, you will see that reflected in your child. Because your child is growing, his or her weight will decrease if they eat healthier and exercise more. The body naturally changes along with the changing habits. This doesn’t have to be fast. Take the time to implement the changes in your lifestyle. Your child will benefit from this throughout his life. You will see it become more self-confident. Because the eating habits have been adjusted, the weight will also stay off and he or she will continue to grow in a healthy way without overweight. Feel free to compliment your child if they choose to play outside instead of sitting behind the iPad.
Let your child try different ways of moving. Think of dancing, football, tennis, swimming, yoga or martial arts. It is important that the child chooses a way of moving that it really enjoys.
9) WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOUR CHILD FINDS HIMSELF FAT?
Ask your child how this comes about and investigate where it comes from. Has it been said to them? Do they find it themselves? Do they feel fat because clothes don’t fit well? Or because certain exercises during gym class didn’t go well? Talk to them about it and give space to the frustrations they feel about it. Teach them that these are welcome and support your child in this.
10) IF YOUR CHILD IS REALLY OVERWEIGHT
Do you see that your child is very heavy and unhappy and is unable to change it yourself? Then you would do well to ask for help with this and to get started with a (holistic) children’s coach and / or nutritionist who can guide you in this.