How to broach the subject of weight with your children
Published 18/04/2016 | 08:37
Communion season can be particularly difficult for families when children are overweight.
Children want to fit in with their peers, but finding a dress or a suit can be difficult - and naturally all parents want to protect their children from such disappointments and distress.
Talking about weight can be difficult for parents at any time, but shopping for Communion wear can offer an opportunity to address a child's growth head-on.
If parents are worried because their child is not fitting into clothes, they can shop around for something suitable and then check their child's measurements.
It's important to normalise measuring growth, so checking the height and weight of the whole family can avoid making a child feel different.
Small changes can have a big impact - such as cutting down on sugary treats to once per week, swapping high-sugar drinks for water or low-fat milk, and having a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner plus two healthy snacks each day.
Research shows that restrictive "diets" tend to create more of a problem and lead to weight gain, so moderation is a better plan. In addition to healthier eating, get active with your children - as they will be more likely to be active if their parents are.
Activity and sleeping enough also help control appetite. The golden rule for kids over five is that they need one hour of sweaty exercise a day for healthy development. If a child is not very active, start with short 10-minute blocks of fun activity.
When the weather is bad don't get stuck with screens on all day. Getting enough sleep will also promote healthy growth and help manage weight. Primary school children should be getting 10-12 hours a night.
Concerned parents should remember that they have the power to promote health in their family and that, if their child is overweight, it is not their "fault".
By committing to some changes they can avoid the serious risks associated with obesity such as high blood pressure, joint pain and breathing difficulties.
Obesity is a concern for the whole of society. Parents, schools, industry and healthcare professionals can each play a part to prevent and treat obesity.
Our Government has a major role to play in regulating the marketing and advertising of unhealthy products, safe places to play and adequate PE.
Childhood obesity is a major problem in Ireland, but help is available. Parents can visit w82go.ie for more information, or visit their GP for support.
Dr Grace O'Malley is Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist at Temple Street Children's Hospital