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While there are many reasons why other children pick on a child that is overweight, one of the driving reasons is a general culture that considers thin to be beautiful and fat to be ugly. In fact, even children who are chubby yet not obese are at risk of being bullied by peers who consider them to be overweight.
The results of bullying can be tragic. Children who are bullied tend to do poorly at school. Their social life suffers as they find it hard to make friends. It is not uncommon for bullying victims to become bullies themselves, thus increasing the odds that others will face ridicule, taunting and even harm as a result of their weight. In serious instances, children who are bullied at school may become depressed and/or attempt to commit suicide.
Parents must take a proactive approach to weight related bullying. This may mean having honest, frank conversation with an overweight or obese child regarding what he or she can expect at school. Children need to understand that other children can be extremely unkind and say hurtful things, but that these hurtful comments do not define a person unless the person chooses to be defined by them.
Emphasize a child’s gifts and help him or her to have a healthy sense of self-esteem. Show an overweight child unconditional love and acceptance so that the child knows that he or she is loved “as is.”
There are times when children should simply ignore hurtful comments; however, a bully who continues to come after a child, uses physical violence or threatens to do so and/or is pursuing a child via social media should not be tolerated. If a serious bullying incident occurs at school, then parents need to talk to the teacher; if this fails to be effective, then a talk with the principal is in order. It is essential for dealing with Obesity and Bullying.
If a bully is pursuing a child via social media, then look at the child’s social media account and block the culprits from gaining access to it. Teach a child how to block certain numbers from his or her mobile phone so that bullies cannot use this medium to taunt, tease and make hurtful remarks.
Parents of an obese child should help him or her lose weight. Obesity weakens the body’s immune system, leaves a child at risk of heart disease or diabetes and can significantly shorten a child’s life span. However, the topic of obesity is a very sensitive one and parents should never poke fun at a child because of his or her weight.
Parents of an overweight child should help the child learn health dietary habits. This may mean having to change the entire family’s meal plan, but is well worth the effort. Encourage an overweight child to eat three meals a day but ensure that these are healthy meals with low fat carbohydrates such as brown rice, potatoes and whole wheat bread. Substitute junk food snacks for healthy alternatives such as organic fruit juice, fruit smoothies, low-fat yogurt and fresh fruit.
At the same time, it is very important for an overweight child not to blame the bully problem on his or her weight. A child should never feel guilty about being bullied, as in many cases losing weight will not completely solve the problem. Instead, the key is to help children have a healthy sense of self-esteem so that the things bullies do or say do not impact a child’s emotional development.
Unfortunately, the issue of Obesity and Bullying is becoming more and more commonplace. It is also becoming nastier as mean comments made via social media spread within minutes and are difficult if not impossible to get rid of. Parents whose children are susceptible to weight-related bullying should prepare their kids for this possibility by helping develop their self esteem, teaching them how to respond to bullies in a non-violent manner and stepping in as and when needed to ensure that the children’s rights are respected both at school and at home.