Dear Your Teen:
I recently took my teenage daughter to the pediatrician. She’s always had a healthy weight, but this past year she put on 15 pounds. The pediatrician said, “You haven’t grown in one year and you put on 15 pounds. You can’t continue to do that.” Do I ignore this? Or do I say something about the pediatrician’s comment and the weight gain?
My answer to this question depends on the age of your daughter.
How to talk to a teen about a doctor’s concerns
If she is pre-pubescent:
You might start by asking the pediatrician to voice his or her concerns about weight directly to you, the parent, and not to the child. As the parent, you will be better able to gauge how to manage this information with your child. As for the weight gain, I might recommend that you, the parents, think a little about the family eating environment and exercise habits. Consider if there is anything that has occurred within the family to account for this gain.
Pre-adolescent kids are eating most of their meals with family. Healthy eating and activity is a joint venture between the child and the parents. You should be careful not to blame the child for the gain. Once you think through what might be going on (increased snacking, decreased activity, more meals out of the house), I would recommend that you consider how to make changes in the household that are in the best interest of your daughter.
If she is an adolescent:
You might ask your daughter how she felt when the pediatrician said this to her. Perhaps you can ask whether she had any emotional or behavioral response to it. You might also take note, as in the above recommendation, to think about if there is anything within the family that could account for this rapid weight gain. Since adolescence is a time for increased independence, you could ask your daughter if this gain or the pediatrician’s comment was concerning to her and let her know that you are available if she needs you.
Most important, though, is to say something. If the doctor is worried about weight, avoidance of this issue could give the wrong impression. Be gentle and don’t make your teenager feel ashamed.
Dr. Lucene Wisniewski is the director of the Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders.