6 Tips For Talking To Your Tween About Weight Gain During COVID-19 Quarantine

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6 Tips For Talking To Your Tween About Weight Gain
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How parents can talk to their kids about weight gain in a loving, supportive, and non-shaming way.

Have you noticed that your child is tugging at their shirt? Or saying their shorts don’t fit? Or not wanting to get in a bathing suit?

Noticing weight gain in your children can be a touchy and difficult situation to address — especially if your tween or teen is also struggling with all the changes of quarantine during COVID-19.

RELATED: 8 Things To Remember If You’ve Gained Weight During COVID-19 Quarantine

Americans everywhere are reporting that being in a pandemic lockdown has led to more couch time, more snacking, and less activity which has caused significant weight gain.

The hashtag #quarentineweightgain has been going viral, and people everywhere are opting for spandex clothes to grow with them.

And while at first, during the uncertainty and anxiety of being on a nationwide lockdown had people making bread, baking cookies, and eating foods they may not normally eat, the consequence is no joking matter.

Kids as young as eight years old are reporting concerns with their weight gain. Yes, you read that right — elementary-aged children are talking about being “fat.”

Tweens are asking for more workout clothes, and teens are concerned about seeing their friends since they gained weight.

If you have noticed any of these signs in your kids, you need to talk to them in a way that shows you love them and are not shaming them. Successfully doing this can be a fine line. You don’t want to let this opportunity pass you by; this summer is the time to address this well before school starts.

If you find yourself at a family BBQ and someone makes a comment about your child’s weight gain, you want to make sure you talk to your child about that.

If your child gets together with some friends at the pool, and your kid makes a comment about someone else’s weight, you want to talk to them about that, too.

You may be thinking, "All right, fine. But how do I do this in a way that doesn’t make them feel worse than they already do?"

Here are 6 tips for talking about weight gain during quarantine with your tween or teen.

1. Check-in with yourself first about your own baggage.

How do you feel about your own weight? How are your eating habits? What do you say around your child about weight?

Parental modeling is an incredibly powerful influential means of parenting that can make a huge impact on your child.

Pay attention to any negative self-talk and replace it with positive statements. Notice if you stress eat. Stock up your kitchen with healthy meals and snacks, and eat them in front of your child. Go for walks or runs and invite your kids.

Even if they don’t go with you, you go anyway.

2. Explain stress eating to your child.

You can share with your kids that when people are under stress, they tend to overeat. Your child might also tend to crave sugar and carbs, which can be “comfort foods.”

Offer them suggestions of other ways to comfort themselves in times of stress, such as creating predictability and control in their lives through a schedule.

Make sure they are getting enough sleep. The less sleep you get, the more you eat. Explain to your child that physical touch is also very comforting, so you should hug and cuddle.

Spending time with others is also comforting to most tweens and teens, so try to encourage them to do that safely instead of grabbing food when they are bored or lonely.

3. Teach your tween about the process of puberty.

Just because we're in a pandemic doesn’t mean that your tween has stopped developing. So, it's important to explain to them that their body is changing and may be going through a growth spurt, whiche means they will typically gain an extra layer of fat.

RELATED: 6 Causes Of Unexplained Sudden Weight Gain In Kids — And What Parents Should Do

You want them to understand what stage of puberty they are in and normalize some of that, while also talking to them about the importance of their physical and mental health — especially now during times of uncertainty and growth.

4. Explain that movement is important to staying healthy.

Together you can discuss how all the extra screen time, lost athletic practices, and staying at home have slowed the country down. This lack of movement adds up, and can lead to holding onto excess weight.

For their health, they can be encouraged to come up with a movement and exercise plan that gets them outdoors and active. This will naturally help with any weight gain they may have experienced, and also improve mood and irritability that comes along with a more sedentary lifestyle.

5. Watch what you say and don’t say.

When talking to your tween or teen about weight gain, it’s important to focus on this as a health issue.

The point of the conversation is not to convey, "The girls will think you're cuter if you lose that baby fat…” or, “Maybe you can fit into that little black dress at homecoming if you lose some weight…”

The point is to use this opportunity to talk about the importance of nutrition and movement, as well as any family history of risk factors that may be important for your teen to know.

6. Address any self-esteem problems.

If you notice that your tween or teen has been moodier or less happy than usual, you can use this time to talk about self-esteem and the relationship between mood and food.

You can refer to a trusted online resource that talks about how self-esteem is linked to how healthy and strong a teen feels.

Talking about weight issues — especially with your child — can be an uncomfortable topic that many parents avoid.

However, talking to kids about weight gain can go over well if you approach it with compassion, openness, and the intent to keep the conversation going.

This is not a one-time talk. This is one that needs followup, accountability, and support. And if you need additional support, seek out the guidance of your pediatrician, a registered dietician, or mental-health professional.

RELATED: How To Love Yourself After Gaining Weight In Quarantine

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Dr. Sheryl Ziegler is the author of "Mommy Burnout: How to Reclaim Your Life and Raise Healthier Children in the Process." For more information, listen to her podcast and sign up for her newsletter through her website. For parents of daughters, check out her online girls' puberty class, Start With the Talk.

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