Weight bias is common among children and many times is displayed in bullying, teasing, or even avoidance of peers. As parents, friends, and family of children, it is hard to watch this discrimination and sometimes hard to communicate with the children that no teasing or discrimination is justified. It is also important for children to know that regardless of how they are treated by peers their worth does not come from body size or weight, and that they are loved, cherished, and accepted for just being them!
So here are a few tips to addressing weight bias concerning children:
Ask questions and start open, honest conversations with your child
Children may not want to open up any conversations that deal with weight or teasing, because they may be embarrassed by it. Asking questions can be one of the best ways to find out if anything is going on at school, camps, friends’ houses, or anywhere else.
Questions to start the conversation: Ask about the child’s day, who they played with, if anyone is making fun of them, if anything made them sad/happy/or hurt today, etc.
Identify solutions with your child
Depending on the situation, you can come up with specific resolutions. These could include:
- Talking about how retaliating against bullying can reinforce the bullying. Instead, try coming up with ways to walk away or stop the bullying without fighting back.
- Encouraging your child to talk to a teacher or school principal if they ever feel threatened.
- Encouraging your child to make allies, because children who have supporting friends are less likely to get bullied. You could even find out what activities your child likes to do and plug them into an after school activity program to meet new friends.
- Talking about how your child can avoid certain places where the teasing or bullying might take place.
Build up your child’s self-esteem
- Focus on and point out the strengths of your child that have nothing to do with appearance. Are they responsible, caring heart, intelligent, disciplined, hard-working, respectful?
- Focus on the amazing things that our bodies can do, like getting us from place to place, interacting with other people, digesting food, playing, thinking, loving people, hugging, etc.
- Find role models of all different shapes and sizes for your child, especially people who are successful, happy, and face challenges head on.
- Address any weight bias that you may see concerning your child or other people, and start open conversation about why weight bias is wrong. Talk about how any bias is unacceptable and that all people should be treated with respect regardless of race, gender, weight, ability, religion, age, etc.
Adapted from https://tinyurl.com/y5zb3nlk