It can be hard to know how to talk to your child about growth and weight. But if your child talks about their weight, it's important to respond in a positive and caring way.
If your child is under 5 years
Children aged 5 and under are too young to talk about body weight. But it’s never too early to introduce healthy lifestyle habits. This includes things like active play and eating healthy meals.
If your child is over 5 years
If your child does not talk about their body weight, you don't need to sit them down for a ‘big talk’ about it.
But if they do bring it up, talk about it in a caring way.
How to talk about weight in a caring way
When talking about weight, it’s important to keep the focus on health and growth.
Use terms such as 'healthier weight' and 'higher weight for your age'.
Don’t talk about 'losing weight' or 'dieting'
Many adults use the word ‘dieting’ in a negative way. Diets are usually for a short period. They involve following a food plan that may not be nutritionally balanced.
Talk about the things your family can do to eat healthier and be more active. The long-term approach works best.
Focus on making healthier lifestyle habits as a family. This includes active play, healthier sleep routines, less screen time and healthier eating.
Encourage self-esteem in your child
As a parent, it is important for you to challenge the stereotypes that can be associated with people who have obesity.
Children who are teased about their weight can have low self-esteem. Teach your child that self-esteem does not come from appearance or body size.
Talk about their good qualities. Compliment them for things they do that are not related to appearance. This could be for being kind, being a good friend, doing well at school or looking after a pet. Praise them for the effort they put into something.
Find activities that your child can get involved in to build their self-confidence. Find positive role models who are living in a bigger body.
Talk to your child about weight bias when you see it.
If you live with overweight or obesity
If your own weight comes up in conversation with your child, don’t ignore it. Instead, talk about health and the habits that can support you all to be healthier. Try to guide the conversation away from appearance.
If your child is being bullied about their weight
This can be a very anxious conversation for you as a parent. You need to comfort your child in whatever way works for them. This might be a hug or some supportive words.
It is a confusing time for your child. Let them express their feelings and lead the conversation. It's important that they feel supported.
Keep the issue of growth and weight separate from the conversation about bullying.
Let them know that something will be done about the bullying. Then try to deal with the bullying separately with school staff.
Do not make changes to your child’s lifestyle because of the bully’s words. Talk about making healthy changes at a different time.
If you're worried about giving your child an eating disorder
Eating disorders are serious and complex conditions. They involve serious disturbances in eating behaviours. They are not always about food.
Eating disorders are often an unhealthy way of coping with emotional distress. They can also be a symptom of other issues.
Discussing growth, weight and health in a positive and caring way does not cause eating disorders.
Learn more about eating disorders