A U.S. study, published in the journal Obesity, finds that parental stress or bullying by peers can make it even tougher for overweight or obese children to live a healthy lifestyle.
“If a parent is distressed, that seems to impact a child’s symptoms of depression, which then impacts quality of life. It’s the same with peer victimization. It impacts depression, which then impacts quality of life. And it seems to affect not just the emotional aspect of quality of life, but also their health status,” lead author David Janicke, assistant professor of clinical and health psychology in the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, in Gainesville, said in a prepared statement.
In the study, in which 96 overweight or obese children and their parents were surveyed, youngsters (whose parents were stressed/depressed) had a lower overall quality of life. Ditto for kids struggling with negative peers.
“One of the pathways to poor quality of life seems to be childhood depression,” Janicke noted. He said parental support is critical in helping children make healthy lifestyle choices.
Janicke suggests that support for distressed parents may be one avenue for helping overweight/obese children. He theorizes that parents who struggle with with stress or depression may not have the emotional capacity or energy reserve to provide support, model healthy eating, or promote fitness activities for their children. Researching more about these contributing parental factors may help to find more ways to treat overweight children, he added.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases outlines what parents can do to help overweight children, including encouraging daily physical (and fun) activity, role modeling, healthy eating habits, and more. However, putting your child on a diet is NOT a good idea. Read ‘Healthy Eating – What If Diet Foods Make You Fat?‘ for more information on why diet foods may actually lead to overeating in children.