Help your overweight teen before it’s too late

By Drum Digital
21 April 2014

Some overweight teens outgrow the weight and the emotional scars left by bullying at school. Others, like 17-year-old Erik du Preez, are less fortunate. He committed suicide. We give you two healthy eating plans and expert advice that could help your teen before it’s too late.

Some children who are bullied at school because of their weight outgrow the extra kilograms and the emotional scars and become healthy, happy adults.

Others, like 17-year-old Erik du Preez of Pretoria, are less fortunate.

Erik was a talented boy who dreamt of becoming a psychologist, but he had to endure the remarks of other schoolchildren about his weight.

He recently committed suicide – and so did his mom when discovering his body.

The self-image of children can be severely damaged if they’re continually mocked because they’re overweight.

That’s why it’s important to recognise the problem and do something about it, says Kerry Lynn Sparrow, a social worker of Johannesburg.

Here are her tips that could help your overweight child.

How do I initiate a discussion?

“Let the right person initiate the conversation,” says Kerry Lynn.

If the child is close to one of his or her parents it would be best for this parent to speak to him or her.

“Weight is a delicate matter so the person must be sensitive.”

Often it’s good for a parent or someone else of the same sex as the child to talk to him or her because comments from someone of the opposite sex can be humiliating, especially for a teen.

Put the focus on good health

“Instead of jumping in and talking about the child’s weight, start by discussing health.”

He suggests one should say, “I’m worried about your health; don’t you think we should do something about it?”

If your child is already a teen you can involve him in the problem-solving process.

“Ask your child how he or she would like you to help; what she thinks would be the best course of action.”

Involve the family

“When a child is overweight the rest of the family’s eating habits are often not particularly healthy either,” says Kerry Lynn.

A sensitive approach to your child’s weight problem is to get everyone in the family involved.

“Then your child won’t feel he or she is being singled out.”

Suggest that the family goes walking together and gets fit – and adapt the whole family’s eating habits.

Get the facts

You have to find out if there’s a medical reason for your child’s weight problem.

If you’re worried about your child’s weight, consult a doctor and find out if thyroid or hormonal problems are playing a role.

Obtain expert advice

“Psychological help can be useful – not only for the child but for the parents too.”

Kerry Lynn says someone trained to deal with weight- and self-image problems can give the right advice and guidance.

Your child could feel safer and less uncomfortable discussing the problem with an outsider.

“Parents can also benefit from therapy. Find out from a psychologist how you can help your child and what steps to take.”

Use these links for healthy eating plans for your children:

Healthy eating plan for teen son

Healthy eating plan for teen daughter

- Mieke Vlok

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