Talking to the parents of overweight children

Parents take more offence when certain terms are used to describe their children than when others are, new research has found. Published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, the study revealed mothers and fathers have preferences about language when it comes to how people talk about the size and shape of their kids.

Investigators from the University of Alberta found that while mums and dads do not mind medical professionals referring to their children as large or having gained too much weight, they are less keen on phrases such as obese and overweight.

Geoff Ball, a Researcher in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry with the Department of Pediatrics at the learning institute, advised health experts against using words such as 'fat' and 'chubby'.

Mr Ball stated: "Terms that are more neutral, less judgmental and less stigmatising should be used. Most of the time families will want that sensitive type of language."

While some parents believed such phrases were judgemental and rude, others felt bad because they blamed themselves for their child's weight.

Professor Andrew Hill from the University of Leeds, a Chartered Psychologist, comments:

"At face value this seems to confirm the stigma of obesity. But the real value of this review of 24 studies of family–health professional relationships is its emphasis on sensitivity around weight issues. Finding out early about how parents view their children’s weight, and their own size and shape, is conducive to building treatment partnerships. This will be easier to do if a child’s overweight is the reason for the consultation. More likely is the prospect of the health practitioner raising the issue. This can’t be ducked but it can be done better."