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Eleven-Year-Old Needs to Lose Weight
Q: My 11-year-old son is 5'2" and weighs 160 pounds. My ex-wife and myself are trying to help him lose weight and he really wants to, also. He gets depressed about it sometimes. He says that he hates his life and wants to commit suicide. However, he is generally happy. He had three visits with a therapist but told me he wanted to try someone else. Any advice? Thanks.
A: Allow me to applaud your and your ex-wife's efforts to co-parent your son in such a caring, sensitive manner. Knowing that he has unconditional love and support from his parents is the most important contributor to his well-being.
At 11, he has entered a stage of development where being overweight gives him more emotional pain than it did when he was younger. Your focus needs to be as much on his emotional health as it is on his losing weight. Doing recreational activities with him that require physical activity would be helpful -- make fitness a pleasurable family activity. Getting help from a nutritionist who works with overweight kids would also be a good idea. Consult with an exercise physiologist who uses weight training as a means to get children's bodies more fit and strong.
I would honor your son's request for a different therapist. There are therapists who focus more on childhood depression and body image; make it your responsibility to find them by networking with your health care providers. Your son should be able to interview a therapist to see if he would be a good match. Make sure that any therapist or nutritionist works on his emotional needs, as well. Thanks for writing and keep me posted if you'd like.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.