Helping an Overweight Child

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How You Can Help your Child

But, given all this, there's still a lot you can do now to help your 6-year-old lose weight.

1. First, you need to get your daughter's cooperation by creating a weight-loss plan that she's willing to accept. Make the doctor responsible for her need to lose weight and make yourself her ally. (Explain that she's got to eat in healthier ways, and you're going to help her). Make charts of healthy and unhealthy foods and place them on the refrigerator to remind her of what is good to eat and what's not.

2. Take control of the food you keep in your house. Don't keep any "junk" foods in your cabinets, and don't be afraid to say no when your daughter asks you to buy these foods at the supermarket. Remember, she can't eat junk food if it's not in the house!

3. When your daughter wants to eat, offer fresh fruits and vegetables instead of candy, ice cream, and potato chips.

4. Set a good example by eating in healthy ways yourself. Children do what we do; not what we say! If you want your daughter to learn healthy food habits, you need to practice them.

5. Don't offer food as a reward for good behavior. This is the way that food becomes over-valued; using food as a reward increases a child's food desires.

6. Don't make eating the focus of your family life. Go for a walk with your daughter instead of going out for pizza. Take her skating instead of making cookies. That way she learns that there are other pleasures besides food.

7. Increase your daughter's physical activities by supporting and joining her efforts to help her get started. (Swim together at your local community center, get an aerobics tape for kids and do it with her, sign her up for something of her choice that's physical but fun). Make it clear that not exercising is not an option. The option lies in what she chooses.

If you can follow through on these suggestions, you have a good chance of helping your daughter begin to lose weight and also of helping her to repair her emotional and physical health. Good luck!

Dr. Siegler is the director of the Institute for Child, Adolescent and Family Studies in New York City, and the author of two award-winning books for parents, "What Should I Tell the Kids? A Parent's Guide to Real Problems in the Real World," and "The Essential Guide to the New Adolescence: How to Raise an Emotionally Healthy Teenager." She is married and the mother of two children.


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