Before I start my commentary, you should first read the entire blurb from ParentMap Magazine’s November 2015 issue:
New proof that love is blind: In a big new study, only one out of six mothers of overweight or obese kids recognized their child as overweight or obese. Researchers at the University of Limerick, Ireland, studied 7,655 mothers and their 9-year-old kids. While denial was rampant when it came to their kids, the moms were better when it came to themselves: 75 percent of overweight mothers and 60 percent of obese mothers were able to recognize themselves as overweight or obese. In our country, about 17 percent of children and 35 percent of adults are obese, and those numbers appear to be rising.
Oh my! If we assume that the numbers would be similar in the United States, which is a reasonably safe assumption, and we also assume that this denial may also apply to younger children, this changes my entire approach as a teacher! I used to view a child’s obesity as the parent’s concern. There are probably a combination of genetic and home environment factors at work here that are beyond my control & none of my business, so I will just stick with my ‘healthy choices’ curriculum, model a healthy lifestyle, & hope for the best. I always assumed that if I brought up a child’s weight I a) was overstepping by limits and b) insulting parents by bringing up a sensitive issue.
Now that I know there is the possibility out there (dare I say even a probability) that these parents don’t even know that their child is overweight or obese, I feel it may be my responsibility to approach this delicate topic with the family, as well as offer assistance for making changes in the home environment to help change the child’s weight. After that first 18 months of a child’s life, visits to the pediatrician don’t come too often, and when they do, most doctors spend…I think I saw research somewhere that said an average of 5 to 15 minutes with each family for well-child visits. That is not enough to change a child’s weight trajectory. These are going to be some tricky conversations…