Talking About Sex Is Easy! It’s The ‘Weight’ Talk That Has Parents Squirming

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Once upon a time, parents were highly uncomfortable having “the sex talk” with their kids. Ditto drugs. And alcohol. But now there’s a topic considered even more taboo: weight. In fact, nearly a quarter of parents are uncomfortable discussing the risks of being overweight with their kids, according to a new survey by WebMD and Sanford Health.

It’s a startling revelation. In an age where obesity is at an all-time high – one study predicts half of all adults will be obese by 2030 – this is clearly an important subject, right up there with the birds and the bees. And yet parents are loathe to bring it up with their children. They’re rather talk about anything else – including drugs and smoking – than weight.

Researchers interviewed 1,299 parents of kids ages eight to 17 and just over 1,000 kids in the same range. They found that parents are concerned about obesity – 37 percent think it’s a risk to at least one of their children. And they see it as a bigger threat to their kids than even drugs and cigarettes, and nearly as big a threat as alcohol and premature sex, reports WebMD.

WebMD pediatrician Hansa Bhargava says parents need to tackle the topic ASAP. “If you want to prevent obesity, you have to be talking to the kids who are normal weight, not just those who are overweight,” she explains. “There seems to be an all-around misunderstanding of this. Parents should be talking about healthy weight from the get-go, and the conversation should be going on everywhere – at home, in school and with health care providers.”

The survey findings show that 19 percent parents think it’s their doctors’ job to talk about weight with their children, yet only 1 percent think it’s primarily a doctor’s job to talk to their kids about sex, drugs or alcohol. According to family psychologist Susan Bartell, many parents are reluctant to talk to kids about the risk of being overweight because they don’t see it as a problem until their children are actually overweight. She tells WebMD that parents are also concerned about triggering an eating disorder or simply about hurting their kids’ feelings or damaging their self-esteem.

Bartell recommends parents start out with messages about healthy behaviors in general, including healthy eating and physical activity.

(Photo: Goodshot)