Providing a healthy home, modeling health-conscious behaviors, and giving support and encouragement to adolescents for favorable behavior changes could be more successful than talking with teens about weight-related topics, suggests a new study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

About 28 percent of youths are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Therefore, one in every five parents is pondering how to communicate with their child about this.

Obese and overweight youths have an elevated risk for enduring two chronic diseases at one time, such as type 2 diabetes and negative psychosocial outcomes resulting from the shame connected with being overweight, as stated by the Institute of Medicine, Committee on Prevention of Obesity in Children and Youth.

With the current increase in adolescent obesity, development pertaining to interventions for parents of overweight children could be an area of the solution.

Keeping in mind the difficulties connected with parenting youths, and recognizing possible targets for interventions, it is crucial to remember problems faced particularly by parents of overweight adolescents.

A team of researchers from the University of Minnesota proposed two questions:

  • What problems do parents of overweight youths face?
  • What advice do parents of overweight youths have for other parents?

Twenty-seven child-parent pairs were questioned to identify factors that lead to effective weight loss among adolescents. The researchers discovered that the issues brought about by parents contained:

  • complications experienced while successfully talking with their child about weight-related issues
  • perceived lack of ability to control the child’s decisions about physical activity and eating
  • concern for the child’s mental and physical well-being
  • feelings of personal responsibility for having an overweight child

Parental advice for helping obese teens consisted of modeling healthful behaviors, providing encouragement and support, and having a healthy home environment.

Shira Feldman, MPH, RD, registered dietitian and researcher states:

“Parents have an important role in helping their children and adolescents to adopt healthful behaviors and it can be challenging to know how to involve parents in interventions for adolescents because of issues related to developing autonomy and increasing independence.

Parents of overweight and obese adolescents often find themselves in a dilemma. On one hand, parents may be concerned about their adolescent’s health, the psychosocial stigmas, and the negative physical consequences associated with being overweight or obese. On the other hand, parents also recognize their adolescent’s need for autonomy. Thus, parents may struggle with what to say or do to best help their adolescent manage his or her weight.”

The authors go on to say it is critical for parents to understand that their children could have a derogatory emotional response when confronted about their weight.

Therefore, when addressing weight issues, solely focusing on weight loss when approaching the subject may not be the smartest option, rather, suggesting being physically active and eating for health may be a more successful path.

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald