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


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


Trust is vital

Lovers, photo by Ovlachi György, Budapest, Hungary, intimacy, loveFor a relationship to grow, trust is vital. Whether the relationship is one between you and your lover, parents, children, colleagues, and/or your friends, without trust you have major problems. Trust creates closeness, otherwise known as intimacy and this fuels a relationship. So when you have relationship difficulties, look at what has happened to the trust between you and rescue the relationship by building the trust once more. Sometimes you need the assistance of a therapist for this.

he kept telling her that she needed
to lift her game for him to trust her again!
and then he was surprised that she
didn’t want to have sex or that
she wanted to leave him
we spoke about the impact his
criticisms had on her self esteem
and that she couldn’t trust him now
because his remarks had hurt her so much
in time as they spent more quality time
their friendship strengthened and
they were able to express their needs
much more appropriately than
attacking each other or expecting
that the trust be earned before
love could be rekindled between them
now they are enjoying their relationship
as the trust grows stronger


Male influence in the family

Walking the trunk, photo by Janet Burgess, Geneva, Switzerland,  paternal  guidanceAs a family therapist and as a woman, I am pleased to see the growing nurturing role of men in family relationships. A man nowadays does more than provide financial security and play with his children. Usually he takes more of an interest in the child’s choices in life and is more supportive of their achievements, apart from sport. A man is not ashamed to take on a more nurturing role which was once only attributable to a woman. Likewise, a woman has more of an active role in what was once considered only that of a man’s, so the sharing of responsibilities is both effective and welcomed for the progress of humanity. Therefore, male influence in the family can provide a more balanced foundation for childrearing.

he remembered that as a child his father was
emotionally unavailable to him
sure, he played with him and showed some
interest in his son’s sporting activities but
if they were lesser talents than that of his father’s
then the criticism and insults were extreme
what’s more his father did not show pride in his son’s
academic and chess playing achievements
fortunately, it can be said that the son is
a better father, more responsible and caring
and this sometimes happens in opposition to the
inappropriate behaviour of a dysfunctional parent


Practise to make perfect

A helping hand 2, photo by Melodi T, Waiuku,  New Zealand, not alone Human beings have an innate need to be united with another. That is why we keep going back for more even if it is unpleasant. Avoiding being attracted to dysfunctional relationships means developing the art of being clear about what is acceptable to us and what’s not. From when we are children we need help to learn about new things from others who are experienced, especially those we can trust. Then practise to make perfect, as the saying goes.

he said that he had been a proactive person
successful in his endeavours and happy too
then he met her and after the initial bliss
it all went downhill because she wanted him
to change just to please her
as he did it just got worse – he felt like a doormat for her
but she was still not happy, his self esteem plummeted
then he walked away from the breakup
and in an attempt to pick up the pieces
he asked me what to do? I reminded him that
once he was strong and capable as well as happy
so he could start again because he had done everything
to save that dysfunctional relationship
also it was now time to note what he didn’t want in
the next relationship and get on with his life
I saw him again and he was confident, refreshed and
optimistic about life



Holding on tight, photo by Julie Elliott, Wichita Falls, United States, caring parentParents can improve or damage a child’s ability to relate healthily. It’s not easy to bring up children. First, our own self esteem needs to be well developed to cope with their phases of transition and testing the limits. Our own moods and behaviour are also mirrored by them and this is sometimes not a pleasant experience, especially when we are in denial about our own behaviour. On the positive side, when children grown up relatively well adjusted and happy, their parents can take the credit for a job well done.

yesterday, my father died 44 years ago
I was 18 years old and his nurturing but firm
parenting skills left me well prepared for Life
thank goodness because
my mother’s behaviour towards me
left me somewhat confused
when she walked out I was 8 years old
and from then on he was both my
father and mother for the next 10 years
creating a safe environment where I learnt much
from his way of thinking and used that method
in the childrearing practices for my own children
also in the way I relate with my grandchildren
this has rippled out to my work as a family therapist
all this from a gentle man with a sense of humour
who valued being a caring parent
I remember him well