Mindfulness

The Parent's Role Amid a Sea of Opinions

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the significance of the language we use when we talk with children about weight. The words that parents and doctors use can have a great impact on how children and teens think about, or perceive, their weight and overall health.

 

Recently, the New York Times published an article by a physician titled, “Do Parents Make Kids Fat?” This rather startling question can be thought of as an extreme example of the influence parents could have on their children’s weight and how they think about weight.

 

The first thing the article pointed out was the “tremendous stigma” we direct at parents of overweight children, whether we intend to or not. As Dr. Julie Lumeng at the University of Michigan, who was interviewed in the article, puts it, “‘Everyone looks at the parent and thinks: That parent is incompetent. They don’t care about their child. Why can’t they just make the child eat less and exercise?’”

 

These questions illustrate several assumptions people may easily make about parents of overweight children. For example, people may think that the parents do not care about their children’s health, or they simply lack the willpower to enforce healthy habits at home or read the nutrition information on the back of food packages.  However, we simply cannot make these assumptions without knowing the full story of a child’s health. This involves family history, health history, and degree of exposure to what doctors today call an “obesogenic” environment in which unhealthy fast food is more accessible and cheaper than healthy food made from scratch.

 

There are many different opinions out there about how to raise healthy children, and while there are general guidelines that indicate what healthy weight ranges may be, different families and children need different things. The physicians mentioned in the article, who even consult each other with questions, agree that a parent must trust their instinct when it comes to their child. Being mindful about the child’s environment can help with this instinct.

 

This is where our campaign with eMindful can be helpful - through increased awareness of our circumstances, we can make healthier decisions for ourselves and for our children.

Some Thoughts on Recent Events

Fall is a time of many changes, from the weather to the new school year starting. This year, though, it has been an especially anxious time. On the heels of successive events such as the effects of natural disasters and ongoing recovery efforts, the senseless tragedy in Las Vegas, and political divisions especially within our government, children listening to the news lately would likely alarm parents with questions.

 

It’s not a stretch to imagine the impact these events can have on societal and children’s health: federal funding for health insurance for many children is still up in the air; food and water are in short supply in Puerto Rico; and gun violence has become a public health issue and its impact on children is hard to ignore.

 

There is no real advice to be given in times like these, but there are many conversations parents, educators, and caregivers can have with children to talk about stresses from these events. At CHIL, we hope that adults and children alike embrace the fact that people impact lives more directly than any policy change can, as dramatic as the latter may be.

 

Mindfulness is always important but feels especially relevant today.