Talking About Kids’ Health in the Classroom

Bri DeRosa (Red, Round or Green)

Bri DeRosa (Red, Round or Green) › I like to think of myself as a young, cool, urban fringe locavore, but the reality ...

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With the rising rates of childhood obesity, there has been a greater push to address kids’ health in the classroom in a way that is understandable and motivating for the children. It’s a complex issue and, for some kids, it can be a sensitive one too.

Bri DeRosa recently wrote about the affect a discussion on health and nutrition had on her young child, and how it forced her to place the conversation in the larger context of weight, kids’ health and school curriculum.

Not long before the holiday break, L.’s Kindergarten class was engaged in a “health and nutrition” unit at school. I’d seen it in the newsletter, so I knew it was coming, but otherwise I stayed totally out of the whole thing. I resisted my temptation to ask what would be included, to offer assistance, or to butt in at all. I wanted to see if he’d come home talking about it, and if so, what kind of information he’d bring. I wanted to be a Nutrition Unit Voyeur.

The major takeaway, so far, appears to be: “If you have a big belly, you’re not healthy.  If you don’t have a big belly you’re healthy.”

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

I’m surprisingly lacking in head-exploding ire about this development. It’s bothersome to me on many levels, but I haven’t yet felt more than a passing urge to go down to the school and have a chat with the teachers about how this, of all messages, managed to become the one that seems to have stuck with my six-year-old son. Or how this message, even as one of the many I’m sure they were trying to teach, may have stuck with and will continue to resonate with all the little girls in his class. Or how it plays with the school’s population, which – as I can vividly see not only at the school each day when I pick L. up, but in the albums of events and daily happenings that get posted online – is alarmingly, and overwhelmingly, far heavier than the general population of kids in our neighborhood.

If I DID have the urge to have such a conversation, I would be tempted to start with any one of the following lead-ins:

“I was checking out the Facebook album from the holiday concert. So cute! But, um, I couldn’t help noticing that the majority of the students, at least the ones you photographed, appear to be moderately to severely overweight. That’s not a problem for me – I’m not sizeist or anything. I was just wondering if you could explain why you’re teaching the kids that big bellies are unhealthy and if you think that bothers all the ones with big bellies? Thanks in advance!”

“I was talking to L. about the health and nutrition unit and he had SO MUCH to say about it! Mainly he told me that bread’s a healthy food and that if you have a small belly you’re really healthy. Now he thinks that the skinny kid in his class who only eats white bread and crackers for lunch is probably the healthiest kid he knows! Was that your intention?”

“Funniest thing…we’ve never talked about weight or size in our house, but lately my kid’s been checking out his belly and trying to decide what it says about him. I’m sure it’s just one of those phases, but out of curiosity, have you noticed at all that any of the children are now taunting one another by using your belly size-health correlation as fodder? I just want to be prepared in case this is going to be the new bully tactic – you know, after they get tired of messing with him for wanting to play with the dollhouse at after-school care.”

It’s probably a good thing that I’m not foaming at the mouth to get down there and initiate discussion, huh?

Click here to read the rest of the article over at RedRoundorGreen.com.

How do you talk about health and body image with your children?

This article originally appeared on RedRoundorGreen.com. It is partially posted here with permission from the author.

Photo Credit: Craig McCord