By Terry J. Basile, Marriage and Family Therapist
Welcome to my first question and answer column for Growing Up Chico Magazine. Here you get to ask those special questions that are in the back of your mind that you might be embarrassed to ask a friend or relative. Or perhaps you would like information on dealing with inappropriate behavior, school problems or sibling conflict. I guarantee that your question will help many other parents. While this a parenting advice column it will be informed by not only my experience being a mom but my work for over 35 years as a therapist for children and families. Please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
My daughter’s grandmother takes her for fast food every time she visits her. This is not ok with me as I work hard to provide her with a healthy diet. How can I tell my mother in-law to stop doing this without causing bad feelings? BM
There is a common expression “Food is Love”. But not always grandma! While grandparents get to spoil the little ones there are boundaries that you as a parent get to express. Don’t expect that grandparents know what they are for your child or even understand that some of them have changed since they had children (gluten, red dye). Part of the joy of being a grandparent is not having to be the one that says ‘no’ and we can go way out there if you don’t put the brakes on. Sometimes we want the little time we have with our grandkids to be so special that we become kids ourselves. So a conversation with your mother in-law about how you need her help to make sure that her grandchild stays healthy is a start. Encourage simple healthy homemade meals that your child will like and after she has eaten well what treat might be acceptable. Be patient and gentle with this information. We don’t want grandparents to become alienated or sneaky because they feel unappreciated. I will say that this is more difficult with ethnic food as it represents the grandparent’s culture. I would also encourage you to ‘pick your battles.” Choose the most important issues to speak up about. For example, you may not want your child to have a toy gun or watch PG13 movies at grandma’s house. That might be more important than the food issue.
I am worried that my son might have weight issues down the road. I have taught him to see that there is nothing wrong with overweight people, which is awesome being that I am. But I don’t want that struggle for him, I try to keep active with him and make healthy choices, but how
can I make a stronger impact on the importance of a fit body, without taking away from the concept that we are all perfect the way we are? NS
I believe that this is a fundamental challenge in parenting. How do we teach our children to have respect and compassion for everyone while creating different expectations for themselves? Support the idea that his being fit has nothing to do with his respect for others who are not. You of course are beautiful to him, as you should be. I can feel that you want your child not to struggle as you did. Remember you have ‘input’ about your son’s size but not control. You are doing the right things in watching his diet and activity level. You can pretty much control this as a young child but he will makes his own choices as he gets older. You lay the foundation but he builds the house. Organized sports are great for getting kids active but not every child will be a star player. By about sixth grade only the best players will be welcome on teams. So I would also encourage participation in a martial arts program that focuses on self-esteem, respect for others and personal growth. Help him discover what he is good at by exposing him to opportunities in music and art. Really what this is about is how he feels about himself. We all need to feel special and having a talent that others enjoy helps us to feel that way. From that strong positive core he will make better decisions about how he treats his body.