An overweight or obese child is at risk both physically and psychologically. Studies have shown children who weigh more than they should are at risk for diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. They also may fall victim to mistreatment related to their weight, putting their mental well-being and social growth at risk.
“It is important for parents to try to help children who are being subjected to verbal and physical abuse because of their weight,” says Joan Everett-Houser, Pharm.D., assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. “Teasing and bullying can take a toll on children in several ways. School work and social interactions may suffer. Children may feel isolated and eventually may become depressed.”
“Parents can help by making sure these children know they are loved and accepted,” she continues. “Verbal abuse and bad treatment by peers and adults at school should be acknowledged and addressed. If needed, parents can arrange for counseling sessions to help children cope with their low self-esteem.”
Dr. Everett-Houser says parents can assist their children by serving as good role models. While giving mental support, they also should maintain an environment supporting physical health. Providing good food choices for snacks and meals will assure a child’s nutritional needs are being met. Eating healthy foods and paying attention to portions should be a family goal.
In addition, an effort should be made to provide opportunities for physical activities. This is especially important because a child feeling excluded at school may not be participating in play time or sports during the school day.
“Unfortunately, the physical and psychological problems that overweight and obese children face can be overwhelming for both the children and their families,” Dr. Everett-Houser says. “Making an effort to provide love and understanding, along with a wholesome lifestyle, will assure that these children have the best chance of attaining health and happiness.”