My two sons both have special needs – one, 13, and a mega-hugger, has autism spectrum disorder (ASD); the other, 16, into tech stuff, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
They’re truly the highlight of my life.
As an epidemiologist and toxicologist, I’d been “prepping” for a pandemic for years. So, we initially had a lot of food in the house, including some prepared foods. Usually, I cook from scratch. From babies through elementary school, I could control their diets. Both have legitimate food sensitivities. But I’m trained/consult in nutrition and complex specialty environmental medicine.
The irony? Trouble with my kids' weights! The youngest initially had severely restricted eating – only five foods. With expert help, we expanded his diet to eat almost everything, and at least try a new food.
With teenagers, controlling diets is near impossible! They sometimes have money, and just buy junk food for themselves. When the oldest was 13, he had a big weight gain (his school was across the street from a McDonald's AND a 7-11).
Our “rule” was to eat healthy at home so that we can have a treat out, sometimes. He eventually had growth spurts and is now on the higher weight end of normal but not "overweight.”
My husband thinks I was too hard on him about foods making him self-conscious about his body. He’ll not take his shirt off in public or private and is always self-deprecating.
Now the youngest is following that same weight pattern. Since the lockdown, we’ve not been as active and stuck inside.
I feel super guilty about screwing up my kids and don't know how to deal with the younger one. He’s aware that I don't want them eating junk and that there’s room for occasional treats. I know he sneaks food in the middle of the night.
I get it - teen boys eat. I just want them to learn about portion control and eating healthily.
I grew up obese and it took significant time/intervention to get to a normal weight. I’ve been stable for 10 years (I’m 43).
It’s so much harder to take it off, especially after your teen years, and I don’t want them to obsessing over food, or their weight.
How can I do this constructively but not nagging and harping?
Whoever said it’s easy to raise children?
Every parent who reads your story, including this one, will say, “Not me.”
And everyone can recognize how hard you are trying.
You are a very informed mother, devoted and striving hard to help your sons, already dealing with their own diagnosed issues, to avoid a self-image problem around weight, which you’d struggled with in your past.
That is key to your frustration… remembering the psychic and social pain of being obese.
Another key is the guilty-feeling disconnect between your nutritional expertise and your sons’ preference for disregarding it.
I get your worries for their self-image as much as for their health. But they are mostly anticipated worries, despite self-consciousness in the older boy, not uncommon in teens.
Generally, adolescent boys typically gain weight, then experience teenage growth spurts.
Your husband’s alerted you to ease the pressure. I agree.
Keep the “sometimes” aspect of occasional treats, and introduce socially distanced family walks and virtual exercise programs. Seek sessions aimed at your kids’ ages as well as one for all of your family. When the older boy gains some muscle strength, he’ll feel better about himself.
FEEDBACK Regarding the boyfriend whose moved-in girlfriend turns out to be very messy (June 1):
Reader – “I agree that “it takes two to compromise“ and ”sharing means give-and-take," but your response to him was too one-sided in her favour.
“Nothing was said about her changing her ways and not being so "messy," just on him to accept her as a person.
He pays the rent; he cleans up after she cooks. She scatters her clothes, puts her things anywhere and there’s no indication that she picks them up.
“Besides being unsightly, it’s just plain polite and respectful of others not to be so messy and inconsiderate when living with others.
“It’s not necessarily controlling to want a clean, uncluttered living space.”
Ellie – You’re absolutely right! On re-reading my response, I’m surprised at myself. I got stuck on his descriptions of his desired neatness sounding “controlling,” but yes, they both must change/compromise/adjust if they stay together.
Tip of the day:
Raising health-conscious children/teens is a years-long process of modelling good practices without putting constant pressure on them.