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Overweight Kids and Discrimination

How Parents Can Help

You can stop adding to the hurt your obese child is suffering by changing your own negative attitude and providing concrete help:

  • Educate yourself about the causes of obesity and the failure rate of most diets.
  • Avoid "fat talk" (e.g., "I feel so fat today"), which places undue importance on thinness.
  • Be an advocate for weight tolerance, along with racial and religious tolerance, and identify positive role models with diverse body types for your child.
  • Remind your child often of all his strengths as a person, and reinforce his right not to be treated badly by anyone.
  • Keep the lines of communication open, so your child will feel comfortable coming to you with problems.
  • If you suspect that your child is being teased, ask specific questions about his day: "What did you do during recess today?" Try to retain a neutral stance when your child tells you about a difficult situation.
  • You might tell your child about your own childhood experiences with being teased, and describe how it made you feel and how you handled it.
  • Try role playing an incident with your child to help him practice nonaggressive ways of handling it.
  • Teach him helpful tactics such as reporting aggressive or abusive behavior, and staying near friends or adult supervisors.
  • Stand up for your child if you witness any teasing or negative comments, and recognize when to intervene.
  • If teasing has gotten out of hand or your child has been physically attacked, it's time to meet with the school counselor. You should also encourage school officials to adopt and enforce policies prohibiting harassment, intimidation, or bullying on school property.

Increasing Public Awareness of Weight Bias

To increase public awareness about weight bias, the Rudd Center has released two new videos demonstrating the nature and extent of weight bias at home and in school, and at the doctor's office. Each video uses both expert commentary and dramatic representation to address the obstacles obese individuals face with weight bias in American society. The videos also present strategies to help combat this rapidly growing problem.

Sources of information for this article: Weight Bias at Home and School (Rudd Center video) and Weight Bias: The Need for Public Policy (Rudd Center policy report).


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