Anything & Everything

April 1, 2012

How NOT To Handle A Child’s Weight Issue

Filed under: Health,Life,Writing — Susan Morgan @ 3:31 pm

I truly believe parenting is a much neglected skill. As an example I give you thisDara-Lynn Weiss has written a piece for this month’s Vogue that offers a cringe-worthy view of her handling of her 7-year-old daughter’s weight issue. We all know that childhood obesity has risen dramatically in the last 30 years, and this has serious consequences.

Even so, there’s no excuse for the parenting choices of Weiss, including the one to submit the essay in the first place. Do you realize how hurtful your words are (will be) to you daughter? Instead of helping her not to struggle with food and eating issues, you’ve guaranteed them a place in her life.

The Vogue piece supplies all the details of the struggle to stick with a year-long, kid version of Weight Watchers, coupled with episodes of starving and public humiliation that eventually did the trick. The girl lost the required 16 pounds, gained Mom’s approval, a Vogue photo shoot with new clothes and hair extension. Mom got a book deal.

Most parents will agree with blogger Mom De Guerre for The Cut that our children are a mirror for our worst fears. I’m not immune. Far from it. Worry has reared its grasping, pointless head for me in the small hours of the night, has more than once guided my dealings with my own children. It’s so hard not to let fear goad your parenting choices… to deny your own obvious failings (weight or otherwise) before your children, but you have to try if there’s any hope of giving them your best efforts.

It comes as no surprise that, like many of us, Weiss admits to struggling with weight issues her whole life… clearly not dealt with and left to be projected onto her helpless daughter. The pain of that will stay with Bea for the rest of her life… just as hurtful at 50 as it is at 7. She’ll find herself lacking… vulnerable… wounded. Confidence will be nearly impossible. A look in the mirror will be painful. If she’s lucky she’ll recognize all this in time to manage some years of happiness in her own skin.

When it comes to dealing with weight issues in children, I far prefer the approach of Janell Burley Hofmann to her daughter’s observation about her body. This mom acknowledged the comment, but went on to raise so many positives, to have a genuine bonding moment with her child that left self-esteem in tact. That let her daughter know she was still special… still valuable… still loved.

If you’re seriously concerned about your child’s weight, take the steps to make sure healthier food choices are available at home. After all, who’s doing the shopping, the cooking? As a parent you need to make an effort to bring home lots of fruits and veggies and fewer high calorie snacks… to cut the stops at fast food places or time in front of the computer… to make the changes that lead to healthier choices. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t supposed to be. Working to resolve your own issues about food and health, something Weiss so obviously needs, might just keep you from projecting weight issues onto your children.

The Vogue article does make some mention of exercise, though you get the impression that socialite Mom is far above spending time sweating alongside with her daughter, and was more comfortable fanatically focusing on what that little girl ate. Mom’s issues with food continue to go unaddressed — doubling up on forbidden snacks for herself shows just how unresolved her own problems are.

Sadly, Weiss’ daughter, Bea is the one who suffers when all is said and done. And though she’ll surely know the source of her future weight issues, it won’t make the pain any easier to bear. She will always hear that harsh voice urging her to reach a certain size… to not enjoy a snack. Approval will only come with this… disapproval will always be just a few pounds away.

If ever Bea Weiss gets to read this, I would tell her…

I am so sorry for your struggles. Not all parents would have dealt with your weight issue as callously your mother has done. Not everyone defines success or failure by what size they wear or what the scale says. You have a unique beauty and power that no one can take from you. Hold on to that and work to stay healthy inside and out. You’ll be okay.


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