Being a parent or a caregiver of a teen who is overweight can be very difficult and can often leave parents feeling scared, guilty, embarrassed, desperate and alone.
Here are some tips to help.
1. Educate Yourself and Get Help: The problem will not just go away. Parents who feel powerless to change their child’s behavior often go into denial or just hope the problem will go away. Rarely does compulsive eating or obesity just disappear. We must take steps to deal with the underlying issues.
As parents, many of us have been brought up to think we should handle our family’s emotional problems and challenges alone, as if to say, “What happens in this house stays in this house.” However, if a pipe in our home breaks, we wouldn’t hesitate to call a plumber. If your child broke his or her arm, you would go to a doctor. So why would we think we have to deal with weight problems or emotional issues alone?
2. Have Compassion: Just being a teenager is hard. No matter how wonderful any family is, being a teenager means your body is changing, your hormones are surging and people are constantly telling you what to do, where to go, how to be, what to wear, how to act. As teenagers attempt to deal with the pressures of school, grades and homework, not to mention trying to fit in or belong, they are also forced to face and digest an ever-increasing litany of scary and potentially life-changing events that continually seem to be happening all over the world.
3. Discover What Your Child Is Hungry For: Do you know why your child is overeating? As with most all addictions, food addiction is often an attempt to “numb out.” Is your child lonely, sad or depressed?
Is he or she grieving? Has someone left his or her life? Is there a divorce? Has someone moved away or even died?
Is he or she being hurt in some way or dealing with unresolved hurts from the past? Has he or she been abused, raped, molested? Is your child angry? Is your child dealing with emotional abuse? Has there been a major change in his or her life? Is your child lonely? Is he or she missing you?
4. Feed Your Child You!: So often children are starving for the people they love. In many cases, our kids are hungry for love, attention, praise and the need to know that they matter. Stop everything! Make time for your child! Turn off the TV, computer and phone. Set aside your to-do list.
5. Listen: Do you really know your child? Do you really know how his or her life is or what he or she deals with from day to day? How well do you listen? How much time do you spend every week looking into your child’s eyes and hearing what she or he has to say? Take time to listen.
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