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My granddaughter is teased because of her weight. What can I do?

December 13, 2013

By YOU Program Facilitator

Question: My 13-year-old granddaughter told me she is being teased at school because of her weight. She hasn’t told her mother or father because she feels ashamed. I don’t think my granddaughter is obese, but she is indeed a little bit overweight (and so are her parents). What can I do to help her and bring this issue to the attention of her parents without meddling?

Answer: It’s really something special that your granddaughter trusts you enough to tell you what is bothering her, and it’s your duty to honor her trust and help her out the best way that you can.

In one of our workshops, we had a grandmother who was raising her grandkids tell us about a similar situation her granddaughter faced. She had been worried about how withdrawn and down on herself her granddaughter was. She decided to enroll her in a martial arts class in their neighborhood. She didn’t focus on self-defense or combat. Instead, she signed up for fan dancing, a disciplined and beautiful tradition.

Watching this grandmother share her story, her face lit up as she described how her granddaughter blossomed before her very eyes. Since she began, her granddaughter has won trophies and put on demonstrations for her school. She is confident and self-assured in a way that many other young women struggle with even in adulthood.

While this may not be an answer that works for your granddaughter, finding a physical activity that you can do together or support her in may not only strengthen the bond that you two already share, but it may help strengthen her sense of self so the teasing has less effect while helping her direct her energy towards better health.

First, however, don’t leave her mother out of the loop. Let your daughter know about your granddaughter’s problems. Share these tips with her so she can help her be healthier:

  • Make it a wellness issue. This situation needs to be approached from a health standpoint instead of an aesthetic one. Talk to your daughter about healthy living and protecting your granddaughter from the emotional stress of being teased. Tell her that by focusing on your granddaughter’s health, your daughter will be helping her feel better about herself and better able to brush off cruel words.
  • Offer Support. Talk to your daughter about any barriers she’s facing to healthier eating. Is it time? Is it access? Then think about ways that you can support her. Can you provide one or two healthy meals a week? If you live nearby, perhaps you, your daughter, and your granddaughter can take a healthy cooking class together to strengthen your relationships and begin a healthier lifestyle.
  • Be a positive role model. Children imitate what they see. Since you say that your own daughter and her husband are also overweight, they need to understand that her child can’t do this by herself. Remind your daughter that she needs to involve the whole family in building healthy habits. Get involved yourself and participate as much as you can. You might even try inviting them to join you as you take daily walks or go on bike rides. What they may not be willing to do for themselves, they may be willing to do for you.

Remember that your role in this process will be that of a cheerleader. Be supportive and positive with your family, but especially with your granddaughter. Tell her that she is loved and special no matter what. Children need support and encouragement from adults, and you are without a doubt one that could make her feel very good about herself. 

For more information about building healthy habits, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series. In Through the Early Years, see page 77, pages 38 and 59 in Through Elementary and Middle School, and page 38 in Through High School and Beyond.

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