How to talk to your tweens and teens about growth

This is my middle child when she was 8 or 9 and had ‘faltering growth’.

She’s always been super skinny (it’s her natural body type), but she got really skinny, lost 6% of her body weight, felt the cold all the time, got sick nearly every week and took weeks to recover.

Many GP and pediatrician visits and a few years later we got a diagnosis of SIBO and she started to get better with treatment.

Then she got hit by a car (fractured hip, fractured ankle, fractured skull, mild head injury + PTSD, depression and complex regional pain syndrome) and TWO years later she’s finally been given the all clear and has 100% recovered from her injuries.

So, when we were in that rehab appointment, she was weighed and measured and the Dr and I were THRILLED she had gained weight and grown heaps!

She has gone from being off her growth chart at below the 3rd percentile for weight and the 5th percentile for height to 13th percentile for weight and and height – which is much more normal for her.

I am beyond thrilled because she is healthy, she is gaining weight and growing well, she has an excellent appetite, she can walk, she is happy and she no longer has pain, her brain injury has cleared and she is doing great at school.

She, however, is worried about the weight gain. πŸ˜³

And this is so common for our young girls, tweens and teens! I get messages nearly every day asking me for advice because their kid is worried about their weight and are often doing something about it, that’s harmful.

So what behaviours do you need to look out for?

πŸ’œ Being overly concerned about their weight or shape
πŸ’œ Making comments about being too fat
πŸ’œ Body checking
πŸ’œ Body dysmorphia – seeing and thinking that their body looks bigger/uglier etc than what it actually is
πŸ’œ Hiding food and not eating it
πŸ’œ Hiding food and bingeing on it in secret
πŸ’œ Making frequent bathroom trips during or after a meal
πŸ’œ Avoiding food, eating and meal times
πŸ’œ Suddenly wanting to go vegan or vegetarian
πŸ’œ Being overly focused on healthy foods or exercise
πŸ’œ Avoiding eating favourite foods that they consider “unhealthy” like lollies, ice cream, burgers, pizza etc
πŸ’œ Putting themselves on diets and actively trying to lose weight
πŸ’œ Any weight loss
πŸ’œ Periods being delayed or stopping
πŸ’œ Being tired
πŸ’œ Feeling the cold
πŸ’œ Feeling irritable or hangry
πŸ’œ Not focusing in school

So what can you say to your kid that will help?

πŸ’› Growth is normal! Growing is normal! Gaining weight and fat is normal and healthy.

My teen is super excited that she is nearly taller than me (I’m 5 foot, so it’s not exactly hard πŸ˜‚) I told her, with that height comes extra bone, muscle and fat so you will increase on the scale.

Plus, if I weighed 37 kg, I’m pretty sure I’d be dead – so, if you wanna grow up and be taller than me you’re gonna have to gain weight. And I expect her to put on another 6 to 10 kg this year and for her to continue gaining weight until she’s 20.

πŸ’› Talk to them about how their bodies are amazing because of all the cool stuff it can do

πŸ’› Talk to them about diet culture. Our culture teaches us that certain bodies are better than others – but just because it’s a cultural norm, doesn’t make it fact. We don’t need to change our bodies – they are perfect just as they are. And size diversity is actually a thing.

πŸ’› Talk to them about the images they see in the media, they are mostly photo shopped and there are some excellent videos that highlight this.

πŸ’› Encourage them to listen to their body and eat when they need to, stop when they don’t.

πŸ’› Encourage them to move their body in ways they enjoy and because its fun.

πŸ’› Try to avoid commenting on how they look, eg “you look so slim in that dress”. Try complimenting how happy they look or how cool their out fit is.

If you are worried about your kid, tween or teens eating then get in touch, I see kids to teens with disordered eating a lot and I can recommend to public eating disorder or specialist services

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