The Serious Health Risk for Children Most Parents Often Overlook

When you ask most parents if their child is overweight, they’ll almost certainly tell you “no.” And, for a lot of them, their answer will be correct. A significant portion though will be wrong, and they won’t even realize it. And obesity is a serious health risk you do not want to ignore.

health risk
Image via Flickr/ Laura Gilmore

A recent study showed that most parents of overweight and obese children don't realize that their children are not in a healthy weight range. In fact, 80% of parents whose children are considered very overweight by a doctor do not recognize their child as overweight at all.

So, why don’t parents recognize their child as overweight? Scientists have a few ideas. For one, since Americans, on average, are getting heavier, overweight children may not look significantly different from their peers. For another, many parents perceive any weight on their child as “baby fat” that they’ll naturally grow out of as they age and get taller.

Parents' lack of awareness around their children's weight matters because it can prevent them from taking steps that will help them be healthier. And this can put their children at a serious health risk. Studies show that childhood obesity leads to increased incidences of diabetes, heart disease, and other negative outcomes. The implications and health risks can be lifelong.

When we think about identifying when kids are overweight, it’s important to remember that there is no reason for parents to feel ashamed. Weight is a complex issue that, while important to consider for health reasons, has absolutely nothing to do with how wonderful, special, and magnificent a child might be. 

{ MORE: Work Hard, Sleep Harder: How to Improve Your Sleep Health }

It can be hard for parents to identify their child’s weight status. So, check out the tips below to ensure that you have a good understanding of your child’s weight.

  1. Check their BMI on your own

While BMI is not a perfect indicator of weight health (they can be skewed if someone is very tall or very muscular) it’s a great first metric for determining if you should dig a little deeper. To use the BMI calculator, simply enter your child’s height and weight and see whether their score falls in the healthy, overweight, or obese category. (If you don’t have their height and weight today, consider using their stats from their most recent well check.)

  1. Ask their doctor

While they always have a child’s best interest at heart, doctors are sometimes reluctant to bring up a child’s potential weight issues to parents because it can be uncomfortable. Since obesity is a serious health risk, feel free to start the conversation yourself. To open the conversation, you might ask simply, “Should I be worried about my child’s weight?”

  1. Make a plan

If your child is overweight, work with their pediatrician to make a plan to help them make positive, healthy changes. Often, simply changing a few key family habits (like what foods you keep stored in the cabinets or how much screen time you allow your child to have) can have a serious impact on a child’s health. 

{ MORE: Preventing Childhood Obesity }

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The Serious Health Risk for Children Most Parents Often Overlook

Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. She is writing a memoir on pregnancy, motherhood, and sisterhood and lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. ... More

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