Audrey asks :
My daughter is ten years old, and as I have split with my husband I get her four days a week to look after. He gets her Friday-Sunday, I get Monday-Thursday. The problem is, she has been gaining quite a bit of weight recently - she's always been a tad chubby, I'll admit, but over the past year (since me and my partner split up) she's really ballooned, to my dismay. I don't know her exact weight or height (she hasn't told me) but she's definitely quite overweight now, painful as it is to admit as a mother. She has a noticeably round, protruding belly that she is very self-conscious about, and has a lot of trouble finding clothes that fit nicely. If I had her all the time this wouldn't be a problem as I'd just change her diet up so she eats healthier - indeed, that's exactly what I did a few months ago. When she continued to gain weight I talked to her, and learnt that her dad is very lenient with food, and that she snacks pretty much constantly whenever she's at his. The meals are also apparently often fast food, and she often eats an adult's serving instead of a child's one. I'm sure this is what is causing the gain, but when I tried to talk to him about it he point blank refused to see me, and wouldn't hear a word of it. My relationship with my daughter is already strained (she sees me as too strict and prefers to be with her father) so I don't want to make things worse by insisting she doesn't eat certain things at her father's, but I can't see any other solution to this. I'm at my wit's end. She already has asthma, and I'm so scared this will make it worse - but I can't think of any solution. I'm not going to starve her at mine, but if things stay as is she'll be obese by the end of the year (if she isn't already). Thanks, Audrey
Could you take her for a general health check at the pharmacy or the doctors and ask them to talk to her about the repercussions of her weight gain? She may not be aware of what consequences of what she is doing to her body right now and it might take a simple information session to help her make better choices- especially where her asthma is concerned.
If her father is able to gain her affections by giving her the food this might be his motivation to keep doing it. It may be strengthening their relationship for now, however she may come to resent him later once she makes the connection between the two. Could you send her with some meals when she goes to her fathers house? Some heathier snacks and things she could put in the microwave that are better for her than take outs? It sounds like he may not feel he has the time to prepare something if he orders in a lot so something quick and easy might be suited to his attitude towards food.
You say that you have already tried talking to him, but perhaps you could try again once you are armed with the facts from her check-up. If he realises what he is contributing to he might think twice about his food habits when she comes over.
This isn't a battle between you two, it's about your daughter and her future, however he may have resisted at first because he made a snap judgement about your intentions. Your daughter may suffer from bullying at school if this weight gain persists potentially making her teens a very unhappy place- so controlling this now will help her be happier and healthier in an imminent and expectedly turbulent time in her life.
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