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How Fat Kids Are Made by Parents (And How to Make Your Kids Healthy)

How Fat Kids Are Made by Parents (And How to Make Your Kids Healthy)

Childhood obesity is a menace! And right now, it’s so bad that one out of every five American children is considered clinically obese as early on as primary school.[1] And although this problem is more prominent in developed and developing countries, it’s an issue of global significance.

Raising fat kids isn’t a pretty sight and certainly no parent wants their children to be overweight or obese. But here’s the kicker – most kids become fat because of their parents![2] Yeah…I know you didn’t mean to – but if your kid is fat, you’re mostly responsible.

There’s no need to beat yourself up though, because you can totally redeem yourself – starting today!

In this article, I’ll show you how you’ve been unconsciously making your kid fat, why childhood fatness is such a big deal and most importantly and how to help your kids stay healthy. So, sit back and relax as I take you through practical steps that will help you in raising healthy kids.

Why fatness in kids is such a big deal

Childhood obesity isn’t receiving so much attention for no reason. An overweight or obese child is at an obvious disadvantage for so many reasons. Here are some of them:

It can cause a wide range of health problems.

Excessive weight has been linked to so many health challenges including type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, asthma,[3] joint pain and even sleeping disorders.[4]

By being overweight, your kid has a higher chance of coming down with any of these conditions and that of course, is really bad news.

It increases the risk of obesity and mortality in adulthood.

Research has shown that kids who are clinically obese have a significantly higher chance of being overweight when they become adults.[5] And unfortunately, obesity has also been linked to increased mortality, which means overweight people tend to have a shorter life span.

It can lead to a low self-esteem and social stigma.

Overweight kids also tend to get bullied in school and this experience can be very traumatic.

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As the person gets older, the negative experiences of their childhood and the associated social stigma may result in a low self-esteem and even depression. And in very bad cases, it may even lead to suicide!

Okay, now that we’ve established why fat kids are at an obvious disadvantage, let’s move on to how parents unwittingly get their children fat.

How parents inadvertently make their kids fat

There are so many “regular stuff” that parents do on daily basis that have a direct negative impact on their children’s weight and general health. Some of them include:

Being a bad example

Okay, listen – as a parent, you’re a hero to your kids! That means they watch every move you make and look up to you for everything. So, if you’re an overweight parent, then you’re sending a simple message to your kids – it’s okay to be fat. And since they want to be like you, they also begin to add weight.

In the same way, kids watch the things you do (or don’t do) and will try to emulate you. So, if you’re the type of person who seldom exercises and adores junk foods, your children will most likely follow suit. Unfortunately though, this lifestyle results in fat accumulation, which eventually causes weight problems.

Being “too busy to cook”

Yeah – the world we live in is becoming more and more fast-paced. And if you’re not careful, it’s easy to consider activities like cooking, a time-wasting chore. So, you’d probably prefer asking Alexa to order you a pizza rather than spending 1 hour in the kitchen to prepare a healthy meal.

But here’s the thing – most fast foods qualify as junk foods, which makes them very unhealthy. And if you’re raising your children on a diet of pizza, fries and ice cream, then you can be sure of one thing – you’ll end up with fat kids!

Keeping kids busy with TV

If you condemn your kids to watching TV or playing video games because you’re “too busy” to attend to them, they’ll most likely develop a weight problem down the line. TV is bad for so many reasons. For starters, more TV time encourages a sedentary lifestyle, which directly reduces the amount of time spent on physical activities.[6]

Furthermore, watching TV for extended periods of time encourages uncontrolled snacking on unhealthy foods, which directly results in fatness. A recent study has also shown that apart from the sedentary lifestyle and snacking induced by TV, the exposure to billions of dollars’ worth of junk food ads also plays a huge role in increasing junk food cravings and consequently fatness.[7]

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Giving unhealthy foods as a reward for a good behavior

When you promise to give your child ice cream as a reward for eating his veggies, he/she immediately gets an impression – ice cream is great and vegetables are just a means to an end. And as your kid continues to live with this notion, the love for junk foods inherently increases and this eventually leads to excessive fat accumulation down the line.

Encouraging kids to stay indoors

While it isn’t a good idea to leave your kids roaming around the neighborhood without supervision, it’s equally a bad idea to keep them confined indoors!

Keeping your kids “locked up” in the house encourages them to be inactive and that can induce weight gain.

How to help your kids stay healthy

Alright! Leaving the negatives behind and moving forward – here are some practical tips that will help you keep your kids healthy.

1. Be a good role model

As I stated earlier, the impact of parents on the lifestyle choices of their children is unquantifiable. So, if you want to help your kids maintain a healthy weight, you need start with yourself.

Go for walks and take your kids along. Eat healthy meals and let them see you do it. As they see you – their hero – doing all the right things, it won’t be long before they follow suit.

2. Give them healthy meals

Alright, this is very important, so pay attention! You are what you eat – the same is true for your kids.

Eating healthy meals is a step you cannot afford to miss if you truly want your kids to maintain a healthy weight. Clean eating is the way to go when it comes to healthy eating, so you may want to start there.

3. Mind the portion sizes

While still on the topic of eating healthy, you need to also pay attention to “how much” food you give your kids.

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Family style often makes people fat without you even knowing.

Kids should be encouraged to eat just what they can – not a morsel more! You shouldn’t make your kids clean out their plates because that may increase food cravings as they get older – and that of course, can result in weight problems.

4. Discourage Junk foods

Junk foods are bad…very bad! And you need to pass this message along to your kids in a very convincing manner.

To start with, you need to clean out your pantry and refrigerator, and rid your home of junk foods.

In addition, you should also encourage your kids to go for healthy foods in school when you give them money for snacks.

5. Make regular exercise a part of their routine

So, here’s the deal – if you’re seriously interested in your kids’ health, then you need to encourage them to exercise regularly.

Noticed your son enjoys athletics? Get him on the school’s track team. Your little girl loves volleyball, talk to the school coach and get her on the volleyball team. Go for walks together, run around the house, give them chores to do…

Just do everything you can to keep them physically active! That will help them to consistently burn calories and maintain a healthy weight.

6. Unplug the TV

As stated previously, TV can be very bad for kids. So, you need to limit their TV time as much as humanly possible.

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It is recommended that kids have no more than one hour of TV time per day. The same goes for video games, of course!

7. Make bed time mandatory

You may not know this but sleep actually helps in weight loss. So, set a specific bed time for your kids and make sure they stick to it.

Generally, seven to nine hours of sleep is recommended for kids per night. And as they start sleeping better, they’ll start closing in on healthy weight.

8. Check their BMI regularly

If you rely on your eyes to tell when your child is getting fat, I hate to break it to you but you may be terribly deceived.

So, as a more reliable option, check your child’s body mass index (BMI) regularly. This can be done through BMI calculators or at your local clinic.

The bottom line

Now it’s time for you to put all these tips into action — starting today! If you’re not sure whether or not your kids are fat, you should start by checking their BMI.

Then you need to ban junk foods from your home, place your kids on a healthy diet, incorporate exercise into their routine and ward off anything that can send them on a downward spiral of obesity.

You should also remember that you – as a parent – have a massive influence on the lifestyle choices of your kids.

So, be a good role model by maintaining a normal weight yourself. And the end result will be improved health and happiness not only for the kids, but for your entire family.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Childhood Obesity Facts
[2] Live Science: Parents Blamed for Childhood Obesity
[3] Asthma Research and Study: Asthma and obesity: mechanisms and clinical implications
[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Tips for Parents – Ideas to Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight
[5] Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences: Home Environment and Children Obesity: What a Parent has to Do
[6] Harvard Review: Television Watching and “Sit Time”
[7] Parents: Fat Kids: What’s Really to Blame?

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Children, just like adults, can be depressed. Sometimes seemingly normal children with no major life issues can become depressed. It is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes clinical depression to occur. There are specific signs that you should recognize in your child if they are depressed. Getting them help and treatment is crucial to their mental wellness.

In this article, we will look into the signs of depression in children and how parents can help them to overcome it.

Signs of depression in children

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) is the widely accepted instruction guide that professionals utilize for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM characterizes a Major Depressive Episode as depressed behaviors that consistently last for two weeks or longer. Therefore, if your child has been “down in the dumps”, feeling hopeless or having sadness for more than two weeks, it should be cause for concern and investigated.

Below are signs of depression according to the DSM manual. The individual must have at least five of these behaviors present for a period of two weeks or longer to be officially diagnosed as having MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Below is a summary/generalization from the DSM manual:

  • Feelings of deep sadness or depressed mood that last most of the day (for two weeks or more). For children they can present as irritable rather than sad.
  • Diminished interest in activities (again majority of the day or all the time).
  • Significant weight loss (not through dieting), or a decrease in appetite. In children, they fail to make expected weight gains while growing.
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Either a slowing of psychomotor abilities/actions or an apparent agitation of these psychomotor abilities. This means that they either have moments that lack purpose and seem to be done because of agitation and tension or there is a significant slowness/retardation of their speech and physical actions.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt every day.
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating every day. This may be reflected in their grades.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying or suicidal thoughts.

Please note that if your child is suffering from the loss of a loved one and is processing through the stages of grief, it is normal to have these signs of depression. If they seem to be stuck in the depression stage, then it is time to pursue grief counseling to help them along in the grieving process.

However, if they are not suffering from a bereavement or a medical condition that would cause the above symptoms, then they should be taken to a professional for possible diagnosis and treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

How to help your child with depression

Depression is not to be taken lightly. Especially if suicidal thoughts are present. The child’s feelings and emotions are real and must be taken seriously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the number two cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.[1]

Professional help is recommended if you believe your child fits the criterion for MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). You can take your child to their paediatrician for an evaluation and referral. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may benefit from medication such as anti-depressants.

Most professionals do not dispense medication as the first remedy for depression. Instead therapy is the first line of defense against depression, with medication being paired with therapy if the therapy is not enough or the symptoms are severe enough.

Testing

There are assessment tools that professionals can utilize to help in properly determining whether your child is depressed. The three tools used in assessing depression in children are:

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  • The Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS)
  • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
  • Clinical Global Impression (CGI)

Taking your child to a professional mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help ensure proper testing and assessment occurs.

Therapy

There are many types of therapy available today. It is important to find a professional that specializes in childhood depression and the treatment of such.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the leading therapy methods in treating childhood depression. For younger children, play therapy is useful in treating childhood depression as children are often able to better communicate through play than conversation alone.

What parents can do at home to help their depressed child

Besides seeking for professional help, there are a couple of things that parents can do at home to help their depressed child:

1. Talk with your child about their feelings in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

It can feel high pressure to sit face to face and ask your child about their feelings. However, going on a walk, playing a board game or playing alongside your child (chose whichever is age appropriate for your child) can allow them to relax and open up about their feelings.

Ask your child open ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no to engage in more meaningful conversations. Never judge while they are being open and honest with you because it will inevitably cause them to shut down and move away from being open with you.

It is okay to allow for periods of silence during the conversations because sometimes the child is processing their thoughts and emotions during your time together. You don’t have to fill the space and entire time with talking as silence at times is helpful.

2. Provide activities that help them relax and de-stress.

For smaller children, there are simple ways to help them relax.

Provide play opportunities that they find relaxing such as coloring, painting, working with Play-do or clay, or playing with sand and sand toys. Again, find activities that interest your child and are age appropriate are helpful in making them relaxed.

3. Limit screen time.

Technology is not helpful in making your child less depressed. It can often be an escape that keeps them from further opening up about their feelings and emotions.

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Limit time in front of the TV, laptop, smart phone, video games and tablets, etc. Any electronics that seem to prevent your child from face to face interactions should be limited. Ask Dr. Sears cites that researchers have found kids who have higher levels of screen time are at greater risk for anxiety and depression.[2]

Provide alternate activities to replace the screen time such as hiking, crafting, drawing, constructing, biking and playing outside, etc. Some children may be so dependent on their screen time as their source for entertainment that they may need you to participate in alternate activities alongside them in order to get engaged in the activities.

You can’t simply tell your child to go outside to play if they are suffering from depression, lack friends and are used to sitting down and playing video games each day after school. Go outside with your child and do a nature hike or take your child to a playground and have fun together to get them engaged in these alternate activities.

4. Promote outdoor time and physical activities.

Encourage your children to take part in activities that especially involve nature such as nature hikes. Do these activities with them to help them engage in the activities. Again this is an opportunity for open conversations to occur and quality time to take place.

5. Help your child when problems and difficult tasks arise.

Assist them by helping them break down the task into smaller and more manageable parts. Children with depression often have difficulty taking on large problems and tasks and find them overwhelming. Helping them by breaking down the task into smaller and more manageable tasks will assist in helping raise their confidence when the small tasks are mastered.

Small tasks mastered lead to bigger tasks being mastered over time. It is a process over time, patience and a willingness to work alongside your child. This does not mean doing the task or taking on the problem solely yourself. Many times all the child needs is for you to break down the larger task into smaller more manageable tasks and for you to patiently talk your child through the completion of these smaller tasks.

6. Help your child reduce life stress.

When children are depressed, they have greater difficulty handling life activities in general. Cut back on activities that cause stress to increase and look for ways to help reduce stress in your child’s life.

7. Foster a positive home atmosphere.

Reduce or eliminate negative attitudes, language and conversations. Also avoid raised voices, passive aggressive behaviors and any form of physical violence in the home.

Make your home a safe haven for your child instead of an atmosphere that is ever volatile (in words, emotions or physically). Make it a calm environment that makes your child feel safe and secure mentally, emotionally and physically.

8. Help your child see the positive in life situations.

Point out the positives in a situation rather than the negatives. Help them see the bright side of any situation.

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Be a model of seeing the positive in life by speaking words that are uplifting, encouraging and positive. Resist the temptation to voice negative thoughts that come to mind as your child can feed off your emotions and words.

9. Believe your child when they talk about how they are feeling.

Listen to them patiently and take their words seriously. Do not discount or minimize their feelings. Express empathy and compassion when they do open up about their feelings. Help them utilize “I feel” statements in expressing their emotions.

10. Keep watch for suicidal behaviors.

Such behaviors include your child/teen researching this topic online, them giving away their possessions and a preoccupation with death.

Seek professional help immediately with the presentation of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Keep this number on hand and use it when in doubt: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255.

11. Keep all prescriptions, alcohol, drugs and weapons locked and away from children and teens.

This is a given for all children, but even more imperative for children who are depressed as they have an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased likelihood to attempt suicide. So keep weapons and tools such as ropes and knives that can used for suicide out of the child’s ability to use.

12. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.

Make the time during your day, every day, to spend quality time with your child. You may have limited time and cannot provide an hour or more a day to dedicate to one-on-one time with your child, but you should provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your child spending quality one-on-one time together. Try the suggested activities listed in point #3.

13. Be an encouragement and supporter of your child.

Show love and not frustration or anger because of the situation and your child’s condition. Help keep your attitude positive so your child can also see the positive.

Provide daily words of affirmation that are not based on end results (such as a grade or a win) but instead praise the effort they put forth. If you praise the outcome, they will be disappointed when their efforts don’t pan out. If they are praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome, their confidence is built based upon something that they can control (the effort they put into things).

14. Help your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

Sleep is a very important factor in your child’s mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause an entire day to be upset. According to Sleep Aid Resource, children between the ages of 3 and 18 need between 8 and 12 hours of sleep each night:[3]

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    Ensure your child is eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting physical activity/exercise daily and plenty of sleep time.

    15. Help your child foster positive relationships and friendships with their peers.

    Set up play dates for your younger child and encourage older children to invite friends over to your home.

    16. Talk about bullying.

    It can be one of the causes of your child’s depression, so discuss their life outside of home and their interactions with their peers. Help them recognize bullying and discuss how to handle bullying properly.

    17. Help your child follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

    Make sure you know the treatment plan that your child’s health care professional has outlined for child. This may include counseling session recommendations, medications and recommendations to follow through with in the home. Completing the plan will help provide optimal results for your child in the long run. A plan doesn’t work unless it is followed.

    18. Recognize that professional treatment takes time to show results.

    Don’t expect results for the first few weeks. It may take a month or longer, so be patient and understanding with your child.

    Depression in children is curable

    Depression in children can happen for a variety of reasons. It is quite treatable.

    Professional help is recommended if your child can possibly be diagnosed with a depressive episode. There are interventions that can be implemented in a professional setting, at home and at school. The key is having a plan of action to help your child.

    Ignoring the problem or hoping the depression will just go away is not a good plan. Treatment is imperative to curing depression in children.

    The first step is talking to your child’s paediatrician to get the ball rolling. He or she will refer you to specialists in your area that can help your child overcome and conquer their depression one day at a time. With you by their side, each step of the way you will get through it together and it is quite possible for your relationship with your child to be strengthened in the process as well. That can be your silver lining or positive outlook on the situation at hand.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide
    [2] Ask Dr. Sears: It’s a Virtual World: Setting Practical Screen Time Limits
    [3] Sleep Aid Resource: Sleep Chart

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