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If Your Child Was Overweight, Would You Want to Know?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting, it’s how hard it is to feel judged by others.  When you have kids, your whole life changes and most (if not all) of the decisions you make in life take another little person (or people) into consideration.  I spend most of my day caring for my kids, trying to make sure their needs are met and they are growing up to be good individuals.  So the last thing I want to hear is that I’m doing something wrong that’s going to negatively impact them for the rest of their lives.  It’s hard to take criticism about your parenting skills, but that’s what a lot of people feel when their child’s weight comes into question.

My son was a big baby, and I got tired of hearing how “chunky” he was.  I knew he was a perfectly healthy breastfed baby, so I tried to ignore the comments, especially since his pediatrician was not the least bit concerned.  Eventually he grew out of that phase and now he’s a healthy, average 3-year old.  I have a good relationship with our pediatrician, so I think if I had a child who was overweight or obese, she would discuss it with me and we would develop a plan of action.  According to a new study, the majority of doctors don’t feel comfortable talking to parents about the weight of their overweight or obese children.

The study, published in the Archives of Adolescent and Pediatric Medicine, looked at BMI data of almost 5,000 children (ages 2-15), collected from 1999-2008.  All of these children had a BMI greater than or equal to the 85th percentile.  “In 1999, just 19% of parents recalled a doctor informing them that their child was overweight. By 2008, that percentage had climbed to 29%, which was a step in the desired direction.  Still, only 58% of parents of very obese children reported hearing the news from a doctor.”  This means that two-thirds of overweight children and more than one-third of very obese children aren’t benefitting from a parent-doctor conversation about the situation.

Doctors might be avoiding the conversation for a variety of reasons, including fear of making parents uncomfortable or defensive.  Some might be approaching the subject in a way that doesn’t convey a clear enough message to parents that their child may have a weight issue.  Although BMI is definitely not a perfect indicator of a problem, it still seems like a discussion that shouldn’t be avoided. 

It’s important for the doctor to approach the topic in a way that doesn’t seem judgmental (using terms like “high BMI” instead of “fat” or “chubby”.)  Passing judgment can cause parents to become defensive and tune out the real message, instead of listening to what the doctor has to say and working together to deal with the problem.

What do you think?