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Talking to children about weight

Weight can be a sensitive subject and you may be worried about talking to your child about their weight.

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Don’t be afraid to talk about it 

  • Take time to listen to and acknowledge your child’s feelings.
  • Explain that people come in all different shapes and sizes, and that you love your child no matter what.
  • Depending on your child’s age and development, you could even share your own experiences with weight and body image if appropriate.

Avoid negative comments

  • Be positive, focusing on all the amazing things your child’s body can do.
  • Avoid negative comments about your body or your child’s body, which can have a lasting and harmful effect on their body image, and possibly on their relationship with food.

Avoid blaming and shaming

  • Try not to turn weight, mealtimes or physical activity into a battleground.
  • Never bribe or punish children about anything to do with their weight, food or activity. Feelings of shame or anger can make children feel worse about their weight, leading to comfort eating and further problems.
  • Try not to single out a child from the rest of the family as having an issue as this can make them self-conscious. It is much better to make changes to food choices, eating habits or physical activity as a whole family so everyone benefits.

Stay consistent

  • Mixed messages about weight can leave a child feeling confused. As with any other important issue, make sure everyone who cares for your child is on the same page.

What to do if your child says “I’m so fat”

Try to find out why they have these feelings. Did someone say something hurtful? Are they feeling self-conscious about how their clothes fit? Did they see something weight-related on TV? Do they find sports difficult, are they always picked last for teams? These issues can be common for children of all sizes. If your child is being bullied, try to resolve the situation directly and quickly with the school. If your child's weight, eating and activity are normal and age-appropriate, reassure them and don't focus on weight.

If you think your child is ‘overweight’

Don’t panic or blame yourself. Cheap fast food, increased use of cars, fewer opportunities for children to play outdoors and changes in family meal-time habits, has led to many people being overweight, including children.

Remember that over time, overweight children will probably ‘grow into’ their weight rather than lose it. Diets may interfere with your child’s growth, and affect their body image and long-term relationship with food. Praise your child on lifestyle behaviours, such as choosing to play outside rather than staying indoors to play video games. Remember that every family is different and change happens slowly, so be patient and try not to measure your success just on weight.

Take positive steps

By enjoying healthy meals and engaging in physical activity together as a family, you can help your child to feel supported in making positive, healthy lifestyle changes that can go far beyond weight loss.

Useful resources

  • Kent School Health offers one-to-one support based on your child’s unique needs. Visit our special educational needs or neurodivergence pages for more information on the support available for you and your child around healthy lifestyles and growth.
  • Healthier Families - To find ways to help you and your family eat better and move more.
  • The University of Bath has produced a guide to help parents and caregivers talk with their children about weight in a positive way. It gives tips and advice on what
    to say and do to help children be healthy and feel good about their bodies.
  • Small changes can make a big difference and One You Kent advisors can support you to make the changes that will work for you. So whether you want to quit smoking, lose weight or just generally feel better about life, One You Kent can help.