From Radiance Fall
The following guide sheet was developed by Carol Johnson, founder of Largely Positive,
an organization for people of size based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Do love and accept your children unconditionally. This will help them to love and
accept themselves. Rememberyou love your children not for how they look but for who
Do treat size and weight as characteristics that contribute to their uniqueness. Teach
kids that diversity is what makes the world so interesting. Nature provides many examples.
Flowers, for instance, come in all shapes, colors, and sizesand yet all are
Do examine your own biases, and ask yourself whether your concern is for yourself or
your child. A large child may make some parents feel embarrassed, and some may feel that
having an "overweight" child signifies a familys lack of self-discipline.
As with most forms of prejudice, these feelings stem from myths and misinformation.
Do educate yourself about what causes some people to be larger than others so you can
separate myths from facts for your children. Books that will help you do this are my own
book Self-Esteem Comes in All Sizes (Doubleday, 1996) and Big Fat Lies by Glenn Gaesser
(Fawcett Columbine, 1998). Then educate your
children. Have a discussion about heredity. Explain that body size is
an inherited characteristic much the same as hair color and eye color.
Do emphasize your childrens positive attributes and talents, and teach them that
these are the things that count. Help them to develop the things theyre good at.
Do make an extra effort to help them find clothes similar to what their friends are
wearing. Its important at this age to "blend in." J.C. Penney has a
catalog called Big Kids. Call 800-222-6161 and ask for a copy.
Do arm your children with information that will help them to deal with the outside
world and our cultures obsession with thinness. Tell them that many groups of people
have suffered discrimination and prejudice, and that large people are one of these groups.
Help them plan how they would react to negative comments about their weight. Do some
Do make your home and family a safe haven for your children, where they can always
count on your support and encouragement. Theyll have enough to deal with outside the
home in our fatphobic society.
Do be a good role model. Dont criticize your own body. Youre the most
important person in your childrens lives. If they see that you like your own body,
theyll find it easier to like theirs. Consider reading Like Mother, Like
Daughter by Deborah Waterhouse (Hyperion, 1997), who writes extensively about the
influence mothers have over their daughters with regard to body image.
Do provide examples of attractive and successful large people, both current and
historical. Also, give your kids an anthropology lesson, and inform them that many other
cultures value and desire bodies of ample proportions. Check out Radiance magazines
current and past issues pertaining to children and weight. Visit their web site (click on
"kids project") for essays, articles, resources, and information for kids of all
ages and those that love and work with them.
Do help your large child to unravel the "thin-is-in" media hype. There are
about four hundred top fashion models, and less than 1 percent of the female population
has the genetic potential to look like them. Attractive people can come in assorted
shapes, sizes, and colors.
Dont ever say or imply that your childs weight makes him or her less
attractive or less acceptable in any way. This can cause lifelong damage to self-esteem.
There is no connection between weight and worth, and you are responsible for helping your
child realize this. And for heavens sake, dont tell your child that she has
"such a pretty face"if only shed lose weight. Shaming or teasing
children about their weight or body will make them hate their bodies.
Dont tell your child that no one will want to date them unless theyre thin.
First of all, its not true. Plenty of plus-size girls have boyfriends. Tell your
child that lasting affection looks beneath the surface and is not bound by narrow
definitions of beauty.
Dont ever put your child on a diet. Most dietitians now agree that this is not
the way to help children manage their weight. In the long run, dieting will only make them
fatter. Maintaining a stable weight has been shown through research to be safer than
continual yo-yo dieting. Focus on helping your child develop a healthy way of life. Make
physical activity a family affair: go for a family walk, buy family swimming passes to a
community pool, have a family dance party, go biking together, or go fly a kite!
Dont become the "food police." Continually nagging your child about
what he or she is eating will surely backfire. Children can always find ways of getting
forbidden foods. In the worst-case scenario, you could be contributing to the development
of an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia. Besides, foods should not be
categorized as "good" and "bad." All food has a place in normal
eating. This is the view of registered dietitian Ellyn Satter in her book How to Get Your
Kid To Eat, But Not Too Much (Bull Publishing, 1987).
Despite all your childs best efforts, he or she may never be thin. This is not
the worst thing that could happen. Many heavy children become heavy adultsand still
have satisfying, fulfilling lives. Researchers will tell you that there is still much to
learn about obesity and what causes it, and that there is no permanent cure for most
people. Teach your children that a rich, rewarding life has nothing to do with their
weightand everything to do with their own attitude and self-image. ©
CAROL JOHNSON can be reached at Largely Positive, Inc., P.O. Box 17223, Glendale, WI
53217. E-mail Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org.
this is only a taste of what's inside the printed version of the magazine!