Overweight and Obesity: Talking to Children About Their Body Weight
What's an ideal weight for a growing child?
Children are growing in height all the time from birth until puberty ends and so their ideal weight depends on their height at the time of measurement. This is different for over 18's who have reached their adult height and have stopped growing.
What age is your child? If you have to buy clothes for your child that are intended to fit a much older child, especially around their chest and waist, then there's a good chance that your child is overweight.
If you as a parent are overweight, there is evidence that it is more likely that your child is or will become overweight - aim to set a good example and check out how you measure up and if you are a healthy adult weight by using this helpful safefood website.
You can find out what your child's body mass index is by entering their weight (kg), height (meters) and date of birth here which will show you on a graph if their weight is within an ideal range for their height and age:
What to do if your child is overweight.
Ignoring the issue or doing nothing in the hope that things will change on their own does not work. Take action, do something, look for help - it is out there! Start with some good practical guidance. Please see our factsheet: Links to Useful Resources on Childhood Nutrition: Some ideas for parents and teachers.
As a parent, acknowledging that there is an issue is a very important first step. Many parents are worried that raising the issue with their child will increase the chance of an eating disorder developing. Others feel very embarrassed and guilty that their child is overweight. With the proper guidance and support there are a number of simple and practical ways of tackling these issues and moving forward.
1.If your child is 5 or younger and you're concerned about their weight, don't talk about it; just start making lifestyle changes as a family. The best thing you can do is make it easy for kids to eat smart and move more. Serve regular, balanced family meals and snacks. Turn off televisions, video games and computers. Look for ways to spend fun, active time together.
2. Don't Play the Blame Game: If you turn these issues into parent-child battlegrounds, the results can be disastrous. Shame, blame and anger are setups for failure. The worse children feel about their weight, the more likely they are to rebel and develop an unhealthy relationship with food.
3. A United Front: As with any other important issue, make sure both parents and other important relatives are on the same page. Mixed messages about weight can have unhealthy consequences.
4. Talk with community based Healthcare Professionals: If a health professional mentions a concern about your child's weight, speak with him or her privately. Discuss specific concerns about your child's growth pattern. Ask for ideas on making positive changes in your family's eating habits and activity levels. Your GP can check if a child's weight is causing any health problems and if any further investigations are needed. You can ask your GP for a referral to community dietitian or a you can find a dietitian working in private practise by clicking on the 'Find a Dietitian' area of our home page.
5.Focus on the Big Picture: The key is health, not weight. If your family starts eating better and moving more your children may "grow into" their weight as their height increases. Compliment your children on lifestyle behaviors ("Great snack choice," or "You really run fast") rather than on the loss of a pound or two.
If you are a healthcare professional, and your paediatric patient is overweight: See our childhood weight management algorithm.
Created by the Paediatric Dietitians’ Interest Group (PDIG) of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI) November 2015. Review date: November 2018
© 2015 Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute, INDI. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided the source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a dietitian. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.
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