Obesity in young girls

Tummy, photo by Kia Abell, United StatesI had a comment from Renee about a problem they were experiencing, which is worth writing a post on here. Many families are faced with the discomfort that a member’s compulsion can cause. There is a concern for what is obvious and then struggling with a need to not cause distress for the person in question, as can be seen in this plea:

Was wondering if anyone could help on an issue that my partner and I are having with his daughter. We have custody of her week on/week off. She is 10 years old and a beautiful girl but her weight is beginning to spiral out of control. She is now in a size 14 and around 50 kilos. We give her nothing but healthy food and we walk together but she has begun to steal food. It started with occassional pieces of chocolate leftover from celebrations to taking chocolate that was for a friends son for Xmas. It is only getting worse. She now rarely eats her dinner, preferring to sneak food into her room to eat. Her mother is not a great help as she often sends whole large bags of chips or lollies with her. My partners daughter will not talk about anything instead getting angry at us for finding out, she will not admit to what she has done. We really just want to help her! What can we do?

Imagine that the substance and behaviour were not food but rather a drug, would you be afraid to sit down with your partner’s daughter and discuss the problem? The same applies for compulsive eating as for any other compulsion. Of course she is uncomfortable to talk about it and becomes defensive – that’s how compulsive behaviour presents itself. You may be afraid that if you speak to her she may become anorexic. Better to ask her to talk to you both about something of concern. Make sure you use a nurturing method of talking. Explain that your concern is about her eating patterns and her weight gain. Ask her how she feels about it. If she continues to stand her ground then it is better that you see a therapist to help you plan a strategy. You may even take her to a doctor who can determine that she is obese and write a letter to give to the mother requesting that she stop contributing to the child’s obesity. Remember to use a nurturing tone at all times because fear can sometimes make us sound angry and that does not have a good outcome.

Tummy, photo by Kia Abell, United States

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Adult children

silhouetted friends 1, photo by aernst, PA, United States,Parents have the responsibility to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their children. Being a role model for a loving relationship is both satisfying for the parents and rewarding for the children because it helps them all live a functional, healthy lifestyle. When children become adults it is important that parents learn how to let go and let their adult children get on with their lives. Parents can trust that their childrearing practices were beneficial and that their adult children will make the appropriate choices in life. Sometimes this parenting stage can be the most difficult part of all, because we need to observe and not interfere or make comments no matter how useful we think they may be. At such times our contributions can be perceived as criticisms or disapproval. What makes it difficult is that we need to then change the parenting role from one that’s based on responsibility and guidance to one based on validation and support.

Simone was concerned about her son who
was out of work and his marriage was suffering
she could not help herself and at the first opportunity
lost her cool and criticised Joseph in an attempt to
snap him out of his lethargy, or so she thought!
but her daughter-in-law, Sue, defended him
and what was intended to be a rescue mission
by a caring mother, then turned out to be a disaster
Joseph felt incompetent,
Sue became protective of her husband and
Simone was demoralised
it would have been more useful if Simone
kept her supportive parent role until
Joseph found himself again with the
support of his wife

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Setting limits with children

53523_hotel.jpgAn important part of childrearing is setting limits, especially when children are very young. The hard part is making sure that setting limits is done through education – letting the child know why we are saying “no” to something, not just refusing. Another vital part of this education process is that we keep our voices factual rather than critical or shaming, otherwise the lesson is lost and the child just feels oppressed. It is hard for us to remember this when children are young, because usually the pace of living is stressful for everybody and being relaxed and calm seems impossible. Also we are in denial at that time about our behaviour and how uptight we are. Children feel the full brunt of harsh, unexplained limit-setting and it affects their self esteem badly. This can result in serious rebellious behaviour in childhood and all the way through to adult relationships.

at four years of age she is the cutest
and she is very aware of ‘living the good life’
as I babysat my granddaughter in the hotel suite
she declared that she wanted stuff from the mini bar
I had to be very careful how I refused her
tonight we were going to eat
in the restaurant downstairs which
my nine year old grandson had been
given the honour to escort us to
I began with “no, darling”
the disappointment in her eyes showed
that there was anger bubbling deep inside
so I sat down near her and pointed out that
using the mini bar costs too much
her eyes mellowed and this showed that
the information made sense, so she seemed at peace
after the delicious meal downstairs
we enjoyed watching the movie Happy Feet, in the suite

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Birthday celebration

Circle of Love, photo by Lioness 65, Frankfurt, Germany, family meetingWhen a family meets for the birthday celebration of another family member it is, indeed, a special day. The food is familiar, the presents are enjoyable and everyone enjoys touching base with family. In this day and age everyone is so busy and it is days like this that brings everyone together. For a few hours there is a circle of love, usually, together with laughter and fun.

today was my 13 year old granddaughter’s birthday
and Gaby had requested that it be a
birthday celebration with her extended family
so there were 20 people present and
there was laughter and fun and delicious food
on another day she will celebrate with her friends
how enjoyable it was today as we all came together
and spent a lighthearted celebration with her
she loved opening her gifts and especially
playing with her cousins all at once

Circle of Love, photo by Lioness 65, Frankfurt, Germany, family meeting

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Short term remedies

Bandaid Bandage, photo by Pam Roth, Louisiana, United States, temporary solutionsWhen we are faced with problems in life and we avoid them by using short term remedies then we are band-aiding the situation. That can only be a temporary solution and usually unless the problem is resolved fully, then it worsens. The problem just festers unless it is given proper attention and an appropriate remedy is found. Short term remedies rarely work.

youthworkers in a residential program for
Wards of the State had been trained that
when violent behaviour threatened to erupt
they were to ‘nip it in the bud’ by encouraging
the youths to express themselves and
negotiate for what they wanted
in this way the threatening behaviours were
dealt with early and then usually resolved
which lessened the aggressive outbursts
and taught the kids life strategies

Bandaid Bandage, photo by Pam Roth, Louisiana, United States, temporary solutions

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Children are not pets

Pets Corner, photo by Hazel Moore, United Kingdom, appropriate loveThe love we feel for our children needs to be different from the love we feel for our pets, because children are not pets. When we want to hold our children non stop we teach them to be clingy and they get serious abandonment issues. This slows the child’s ability to develop good ego boundaries and affects their relationships later on in life. When I see that type of behaviour I, as a family therapist, suggest that the parent(s) get a pet in order to balance out their need to cling onto their child. Pets thrive on cooing and playful love, and humans benefit from showing them that. Children thrive on appropriate parental love and parents benefit from having their children develop healthily.

Zelma was totally focused on her disabled daughter Elli
and took great pride that she was a loving mother but
hadn’t noticed that she was treating Elli like a pet
hugging her, cooing to her and using baby talk
even until she was an adult and
didn’t see how it annoyed Elli
then one day Zelma became embarrassed
when her daughter barked at her!
so she got a dog and a cat so that
they could coo over them and kept
appropriate love for her daughter which
made a huge difference to Elli’s development

Pets Corner, photo by Hazel Moore, United Kingdom, appropriate love

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Children need love, so parents chill out

Anger, photo by Ivar van Bussel, Groningen, Netherlands, abusive tantrumsFathers and mothers, with small children, are usually at a Life Stage when stresses affect their behaviour, making them intolerant. It’s vital that we don’t psychologise abusive behaviour exhibited by stressed parents. In other words, avoid excusing abusive actions just because parents are stressed – there’s no excuse good enough for abuse. So parents, remember that although you’re having a hard time, when you over-react about your children’s mistakes this negatively impacts on their self-esteem. Also your behaviour is seen as inappropriate and abusive by children and everyone around too! What’s more if the ‘punishment is too severe then the lesson is lost’. When you’re finding it difficult to keep your cool, then maybe you need to see a therapist so that you can let off steam before it becomes abusive for everyone concerned. Children need love to grow healthily, not fear. Childrearing specialists claim that prisoners didn’t get there from too much parental love as children.

she was almost hysterical as she told me
how her family was driving her crazy
her husband was in the same state!
you may say “no wonder” when they
are in stressful jobs and trying to
make a decent lifestyle for their family!
then as the story unfolded they realised that
their lives had become unmanageable due to
hard work, lots of bills and not enough rest
everything had become so serious and
children have no way of knowing how
to deal with their parents’ stress, therefore,
they chose to do things as a family that
would bring them fun and relaxation
as well as putting their home in order
instead of just excusing the dysfunctionality

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Role models

Dad's Shoulder, photo by Joseph Zlomek, Pottstown, United States, loving parentSome people have had abusive parents as role models. Others have had one parent functional and the other dysfunctional. Unfortunately, there are those who have been abused and become abusers, mainly because they experienced how powerful induced fear was. The promising thing is that as we grow most of us learn to appreciate the healthy role models and mimic them in adulthood.

Nina was surprised that her mother’s abusive behaviour
hadn’t made her an emotional cripple, but remembered
that her father was a gentle, loving parent and
whenever she was tempted by her mother’s words
to believe that she was ugly and worthless
Nina would recall her father’s unconditional love
which gave her the confidence to make healthy choices
at times it took a lot of work to raise her self esteem
because her mother’s words would creep into
Nina’s thoughts unexpectedly, however
that was short lived as she developed the skills
to diffuse such thoughts by sending them
off into the universe in imaginary balloons

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Family gatherings

Paper family, photo by Brian S, Jakarta, Indonesia,  family reunionsAt the end of the year, for the festivities there are many family gatherings. Relatives get together to celebrate and have fun. Sometimes this is a wonderful experience and at other times the unintended happens with arguments and hurt feelings. The success of family gatherings depends on the members of each family and how important it is for them to strengthen family ties. When people can put principles above personalities they can enjoy fulfilling relationships in their families and can spend enjoyable get togethers. Instead of becoming offended about something it’s better to ask “how important is it?” and let go of the hurt.

each year her family comes together
and it’s an enjoyable event that she
looks forward to each time
kids grow up and have their own families
so the family gatherings that parents
can depend on taking place
become fewer and therefore
even more special
she thought herself fortunate
that her family continues to value
attending these yearly events with her
which brings them all together for some fun

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Christmas Day

Christmas Decoration, photo by Law Hui Sheng, PJ, Malaysia, Happy ChristmasIn this country Christmas Day is a ritual that’s a great pleasure to people of all ages. The religious folk attend church and those who are not religious participate in other activities which define the ritual of Christmas, including public holidays. Christmas cards would have already been sent out, a Christmas tree decorated, special food and presents purchased to enjoy on this day. Children wake up early to open their presents which are kept under the tree, including the special ones from Santa Claus. Then still in their nightwear everyone enjoys a breakfast together. People not of the Christian faith, even Christians whose Christmas Day is on 6th January, have been known to also participate in this process as it’s part of Australia’s identity. In time hopefully we will all become more familiar with, and celebrate, rituals of the other cultures which make our society multi-cultural.

some of my grandchildren’s friends are of the Jewish faith
and have been eager to decorate a Christmas tree
therefore next year it was suggested that a
Christmas decorating party be organised to
do just that and give them the experience
how delightful the way that children can
share their cultural differences in a way
that’s full of friendship and fun
an exciting learning curve which
fosters love and peace

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