Weight-related Issues in Young People and Families

Language, incidence, impact, mental health impact, contributing factors, impact on families, practice approach for families and children, comprehensive resources for practitioners and parents

Three sections follow:

1. Background Material that provides the context for the topic

2. A suggested Practice Approach

3. A list of Supporting Material / References

Feedback welcome!

Background Material

A note on language

It is critical that professionals use non-stigmatising, neutral language that focuses on health rather than weight. This resource uses ‘higher weight’ in preference to ‘overweight’ (BMI between 85th and 95th percentile) or ‘obese’ (BMI > 95th percentile). ‘Healthy weight’ is used to refer to those in the 5th to less than 85th BMI category. Higher weight has been shown to affect a child’s physical and mental health (Abikar, Micheletto & MacVean, 2022; Hunter, 2022a).


Definitions / Incidence / Impact

Higher weight refers to a state where the energy that a child gets from consuming food and drinks is greater than the energy they use through physical activity, growing and other bodily processes, causing this extra energy to be stored as excess fat. Higher weight is a complex condition that is emerging as a significant public health challenge (Abikar, Micheletto & MacVean, 2022).


Mental health is our ability to adapt and respond to life’s challenges, engage with others, and reach our full potential. Child mental health exists on a continuum, ranging from positive mental health, through to mental health vulnerabilities. It incorporates behavioural, social, cognitive, spiritual and emotional strengths, and is a facet of child development (Beyond Blue, 2022; Hunter 2022a).


In Australia in 2017–18, approximately 1 in 4 children aged 2–17 years were considered ‘higher weight’, with 17% classified as ‘overweight’ and 8% ‘obese’. Higher weight generally increases with age (up to 31% of adolescents aged 16-17 years). Children living in low socioeconomic areas, rural and remote regions, as well as those with disability are more likely to experience higher weight.

  • The National Health Survey indicates that 38% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adolescents were of higher weight in 2018–19, increasing from 31% in 2012–13 (Abikar, Micheletto & MacVean, 2022; Commonwealth of Australia, 2022; Hunter 2022a).

  • Recent statistics estimate that approximately 4.4 million people have a disability; of this population, approximately 72% have higher weight, compared with 55% of people without disability, with higher weight identified among the common contributors to potentially avoidable deaths (Kelly, Hatzikiriakidis & Kuswara,, 2022).

  • For immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East the prevalence of higher weight in adults is 40% higher than in the Australian-born population. Similarly, children from CALD backgrounds, especially boys, are more likely to be affected by higher weight compared to children from English-speaking backgrounds, even after controlling for socioeconomic factors. While these results have been attributed to both health behaviours (physical inactivity and unhealthy eating) and inequalities across a broad range of social determinants (e.g. unemployment, low income, inadequate transport), lack of early referral to dietitians, exercise physiologists and modified lifestyle programs are also part of the cause (Kelly, Hatzikiriakidis & Kuswara,, 2022).

Children who are higher weight may be at a greater risk of developing comorbidities, particularly cardiovascular diseases. There is also an increased risk of developing type two diabetes, obstructive sleep apnoea, hip and joint problems, early atherosclerosis, hypertension, metabolic syndrome and fatty liver disease. Weight-stigmatisation and bullying/teasing can occur leading to social marginalisation, especially exclusion from activities that require physical activity. This can have a significant impact on overall health-related quality of life, e.g. greater school absenteeism and overall psychosocial stress, less nutritious diet and physical activity, more behavioural problems, and less favourable neuropsychological functioning (Abikar, Micheletto & MacVean, 2022; Commonwealth of Australia, 2022; Raising Children, 2021).


Influence of Growth, Development and Lifestyle Changes

The importance of adolescent and young adult higher weight prevention is supported by their unique developmental needs. In early–mid adolescence, teenagers experience their pubertal growth spurt, increasing energy requirements. The drive to eat is strong. Changes are evident in appetite-related hormones and muscle and fat deposition, which can facilitate excess weight gain if coupled with physical inactivity and sedentary behaviours. Extensive neurocognitive development occurs during adolescence until the mid-20s. Notably, the prefrontal cortex region responsible for self-control is last to mature, whereas pleasure-seeking centres are hypersensitive and impulsive. This state likely contributes to the overconsumption of palatable, fat- and sugar-rich foods.


Peers, social media and advertising thus strongly influence dietary, physical activity and other lifestyle behaviours. Completing high school and moving out of home trigger lifestyle changes that often mean young adults cease team sports, consume more takeaway meals, and engage in binge drinking and eating, leading to rapid weight gain.


In recent youth consultation work, adolescents identified: 1) the toxic social media environment; 2) manipulative food marketing strategies; and 3) inaccessibility of sport and recreation venues (especially during pandemic lockdowns) as the main concerns threatening their physical health. Young people’s engagement in the rapidly evolving virtual world will continue to create new marketing opportunities, for example for fat- and sugar-rich junk foods, that derail public health efforts (Partridge et al., 2022).


Mental health outcomes associated with higher weight

Children’s physical and mental health cannot be separated. An increased understanding of, and support for, the mental health and wellbeing of children with higher weight will also increase the likelihood of improved physical health outcomes. The following sections provide brief summaries of the links between higher weight in childhood and commonly reported psychosocial (e.g. health-related quality of life, self-esteem) and mental health (e.g. anxiety, depression, eating disorders) concerns.


Health-related quality of life Children with higher weight report impaired health-related quality of life, particularly in the following domains:

  • Emotional (e.g. feel angry, sad, afraid or scared, or have trouble sleeping).

  • Social (e.g. have problems getting along with other children, being teased by other children).

  • Physical (e.g. have problems walking more than one block, lifting something heavy).

Self-esteem Children with higher weight are at increased risk of experiencing lower self-esteem due to teasing from peers, weight-related criticism, and beliefs that their weight is beyond control.

  • Negative attitudes and behaviours, such as teasing, can come from adults such as family members, teachers and health professionals. These adults can think that focusing on a child’s weight or the benefits of weight loss will help them to lose weight. In reality, negative comments and behaviours can lead to children putting on weight.

  • Teasing and criticism can also increase the chances of poor outcomes such as body dissatisfaction, social isolation and a reduction in physical activity.

Anxiety and depression Mixed results from studies exist in this area; some studies show an increase in anxiety and/or depression, others do not.


ASD and ADHD Evidence is emerging that children experiencing childhood neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorders and ADHD are more likely to also experience higher weight. Studies indicate this is more likely for ASD than ADHD.


Disordered eating Children with higher weight are at increased risk of disordered eating attitudes and behaviours, ranging from weight/shape concerns and dietary restraints through to extreme weight control behaviours and eating disorders (Hunter, 2022a; Hunter, 2022b).


Factors contributing to higher weight in children

While a key cause of higher weight is an energy imbalance (consuming more energy through food and drink than used up through movement and physical activity), the causes of higher weight are often more complex. A range of factors influence a child’s weight: gender, neighbourhood landscape, household income, parental education, physical activity, sedentary activity, quality of diet, school-level academic performance, screen time and quality of sleep. The following factors play a part:

  • Biology (e.g. genetics, gender, physiology, metabolic dysfunction, medications)

  • Behaviour (e.g. the amount of physical activity the child participates in, compared to their sedentary behaviour [including screen time] and their quality of sleep).

  • Environmental factors, such as socioeconomic status and family context (including household income and parental education level), school- level academic performance, and ability to access parks and green spaces.

Modifiable environmental factors that increase the risk of higher weight include:

  • the accessibility and low cost of unhealthy eating options such as low-nutrient, energy dense foods and sugary drinks

  • targeted marketing of calorie-dense and unhealthy food options through the media

  • the urban design of communities that reduce physical activity; and

  • increased use of technology, which further encourages sedentary behaviour.

Home environments with chronic stress have been linked to higher weight. (Abikar, Micheletto & MacVean, 2022; Commonwealth of Australia, 2022; Hunter, 2022a, 2022b).


Risk factors for poor mental health outcomes

Weight stigma Weight stigma plays a critical role in negative mental health outcomes for children with higher weight. It is defined as ‘negative weight-related attitudes and beliefs that are manifested through stereotypes, bias, rejection, and prejudice toward children and adolescents because they are overweight or obese’. Weight stigma results from teasing, bullying and social exclusion with Australian research finding children aged 6 and 13 years with higher weight were 4-8 times more likely to be bullied and teased.This stigma can come from parents, other family members, teachers, health care professionals and the media.Rather than motivating one to lose weight, weight stigma is associated with weight gain and plays a role in

  • Body dissatisfaction

  • Depressive symptoms

  • Social isolation

  • Binge eating

  • An avoidance of healthcare settings

  • A reduction in physical activity, and

  • Suicidal ideation.

Adolescents who have experienced weight-stigma are more likely to report negative psychosocial outcomes (reduced quality of life, low self-esteem and depressive symptoms), regardless of the child’s BMI, weight status or weight loss (Hunter 2022a).


Lawrence et al. (2022) discuss weight stigma in detail, which they describe as one of the few remaining socially acceptable forms of stigmatisation. People living with higher weight experience weight stigma in most social settings. This has a negative impact on their health and quality of life. A primary contributor to weight stigma is the misconception that higher weight is caused by factors solely within an individual’s control. However, this disregards the complex and multifaceted nature of higher weight. Weight stigma is perpetuated by the media, healthcare practitioners and researchers, and even public health campaigns and policies designed to help people living with higher weight.

At the core of weight stigma are beliefs that the causes of higher weight are completely under an individual’s control. As one of the few remaining socially acceptable forms of stigmatisation, weight stigma is pervasive. Individuals living with higher weight experience weight stigma across many social contexts, including at home, schools and education centres, workplaces, social media, and in healthcare.

Experiences of weight stigma are associated with physical and mental health concerns, including depression, body image concerns, reduced quality of life, and increased mortality risk. Additionally, and in contrast to the common misconception that experiences of weight stigma are beneficial to inciting behaviour change, these experiences lead to maladaptive behavioural responses. These include avoidance of physical activity settings, disordered eating behaviour and avoidance or disengagement from healthcare, which in some instances may also lead to weight gain.


Furthermore, current policy, media portrayal and widespread societal attitudes that focus on individual responsibility and simplistic rhetoric surrounding higher weight have the unintended consequence of worsening health outcomes for these individuals directly (e.g. lower motivation to exercise, higher binge eating) and indirectly (e.g. avoidance of healthcare). This limited public health approach ignores the genetic, psychological, environmental, economic and social determinants of higher weight and overlooks the changed biology of individuals living with higher weight. Likewise, considerable evidence also shows negative beliefs about and attitudes towards individuals living with higher weight exist in many healthcare settings.


It is well known that long-term weight change is extremely challenging and is much more complex than simply adopting a healthier diet or increasing energy expenditure.


Parental influences on children’s weight and wellbeing Parents’ views of their children as being overweight, regardless of actual weight status, increase the risk of negative consequences. If parents identify children as being overweight, children are more likely to view their body negatively, and may be detrimental to their wellbeing. It can lead to greater dieting and dysfunctional eating attitudes and lead to poor mental health outcomes for children. In contrast, parental encouragement of healthy lifestyles without explicit reference to weight is associated with better child wellbeing and can help avoid some of the negative outcomes associated with higher weight in childhood. Family-based interventions have been found to be effective when addressing the mental health impacts of higher weight (Hunter 2022a).


Body dissatisfaction and concerns about size and shape This is common among children with higher weight and can lead to negative psychosocial outcomes. Weight stigma plays a key role in body dissatisfaction (Hunter 2022a).


Impact of higher weight on families

Parents may experience the emotions of self-blame, guilt and shame as a result of their child’s diagnosis of higher weight. They may feel their parenting abilities are in question making it more difficult to address higher weight concerns and/or discuss the issue. In some families, there is a significant and bidirectional association between higher weight in children and poor family communication and cohesion. Higher weight can impact on relations with siblings, e.g. a feeling one can no longer participate with siblings and peers, impacting adversely on self-esteem and social abilities (Abikar, Micheletto & MacVean, 2022).


How to support mental health and wellbeing of children with higher weight

Early intervention, including managing family eating habits and physical activity, identifying mental health concerns, accessing professional services when necessary, and designing family-individual-school-based interventions, offers the potential to alleviate the challenges higher weight can cause for children and their families (Abikar, Micheletto & MacVean, 2022).

In particular,

  • Change everyday family eating habits

  • Set a good example and show your child/teenager that you enjoy healthy eating yourself.

  • Involve your child/teenager in choosing and preparing healthy foods for meals. This helps them learn about healthy foods and making good choices. They are also more likely to eat something they’ve helped to make.

  • Eat more vegetables and salad. Aim to fill half the plate at main meals with salad or vegetables.

  • Save ‘sometimes’ foods and drinks for special occasions. This includes fast food, potato chips, biscuits, cakes, lollies, flavoured milks and soft drinks. If you don’t have ‘sometimes’ foods in your home, it’s easier for your child/teenager to avoid eating them.

  • Establish regular family meals, including breakfast where possible. Sit down to enjoy meals together as a family with the TV switched off. Aim for a healthy breakfast each day.

  • Have healthy snacks handy for when you know your child/teenager will be hungry. For example, keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the bench and a container of chopped fresh vegies in the fridge.

  • Include more physical activity into family life

  • Make sure that your child/teenager balances screen time with activities that get your child moving. You can also combine screen use with physical activity.

  • Give your child/teenager the chance for active play. Your child needs at least one hour of physical activity, which can be spread throughout the day. Physical activity during the school day usually isn’t enough.

  • Build activity into everyday family life – for example, go for family walks or bike rides together.

  • Encourage your child/teenager to walk to and from school, the local shops or friends’ places if possible. Walk more as a family.

  • Practice body kindness and use positive language—focus on the child’s health, being careful not to speak negatively about anyone’s weight. Don’t compare a child’s/teenager’s weight to the weight of others.

  • If a child approaches a parent with concerns or questions about weight, the parent should be open to the concerns and let them know their health and wellbeing involves more than their weight—people of all body shapes and sizes can be healthy. Sensitivity and care are important when talking about weight issues with your child.

  • Pick the moment and be ready to listen. The conversation will go better when parent and teenager are relaxed and calm. Pay attention to the teenager and show that you understand their point of view.

  • Be honest and clear about your child’s weight and the need to make healthy changes. The more your child understands, the more likely they’ll be to make and stick to healthy changes. For example, ‘I’ve noticed that you haven’t been getting a lot of exercise lately. I think you might be getting to a weight that’s not healthy for you. But I’m no expert! How would you feel about talking to the GP?’

  • Avoid talking about ‘dieting’. Talk about healthy eating rather than starting a diet.

  • If you’re worried that discussing weight with your child will create an eating disorder, it might help to know that the risk is very small if you discuss these issues sensitively.

  • Look out for any signs of teasing or bullying—let them know that they didn’t deserve this, that it’s not their fault, and remind them of their strengths. Help the child identify safe adults or friends who will support them if targeted.

  • Focus on qualities that aren’t related to weight—highlight strengths, e.g. list five things, not related to how they look, that they like about themselves. This helps the child see their whole self and be kinder to themselves.

  • Promote acceptance of diverse body shapes—think about family, friends, sports people, musicians and others with diverse bodies who can show your child that health, success and happiness are not related to how a person looks.

  • Take a whole-of-family approach to health—identify health-focused activities for the family; set a good sleep routine for the family.

  • Seek support (e.g. GP or those listed elsewhere in the ‘parent resources’ file) if concerned about the child’s mental health (Hunter, 2022b; Raising children, 2021; Raising children, 2022).

Practice Approach


The National Obesity Strategy 2022-2032 (Commonwealth of Australia, 2022) highlights the importance of addressing higher weight in families, both children and adults because of the health complications, and consequent poor wellbeing outcomes, that result from higher weight. The Strategy suggests health professionals can and should play a role in addressing this increasing problem that impacts on:

  • 1 in 4 young children (2 – 4 years old)

  • 1 in 4 children (5 – 17 years old)

  • 1 in 2 young people (18 – 24 years old)

  • 4 in 5 older people (65 – 74 years old)

Opportunities to intervene occur across the life course, in particular in:

  • The first 1000 days (preconception, pregnancy and ages 0 – 2/3)

  • Adolescence and early adulthood (Commonwealth of Australia, 2022). Refer to the “Influence of Growth, Development and Lifestyle Changes” section above for an explanation of the issues faced in these age groups.

Particular groups that are more likely to be impacted by obesity in particular include:

  • People living in areas of most disadvantage (> 1.16)

  • People living in regional and remote areas (> 1.08)

  • Men (> 1.25)

  • People with severe or profound activity limitations (> 1.22)

  • 65 – 74-year-olds (> 1.7 than 18 – 24-year-olds)

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (> 1.16); higher weight contributes 7.2% of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (Commonwealth of Australia, 2022).

Social workers can take the opportunity to discuss higher weight in children (and adults if relevant) in two situations:

  1. The parent(s) may raise the issue with the social worker directly, or

  2. The parent may be receiving support in another area and the social worker, as part of exploring the family situation, may discover there are issues with the children’s health and weight.

1. When parents raise the issue

The background material above, and the parent/practitioner resources in the section that follows, provides ample resources for a social worker to use if parents are seeking support to address either higher weight themselves, or in their children. Important points made in this material include:

  • Use non-stigmatising, neutral language, e.g. ‘higher weight' and ‘healthy weight’ in preference to overweight, obese or normal weight.

  • Higher weight can lead to developing comorbidities, e.g. type two diabetes, obstructive sleep apnoea, hip and joint problems, early atherosclerosis, hypertension, metabolic syndrome and fatty liver disease. In children higher weight can have a significant impact on overall health-related quality of life, e.g. feeling angry/sad, social relationships, lower self-esteem, and disordered eating.

  • Parents should address higher weight by encouraging healthy (family) lifestyles rather than identifying children as overweight.

  • Healthy family lifestyles should revolve around changing everyday family eating habits to ensure healthy foods are provided, as well as including more physical activity in family life to reduce screen time and other sedentary behaviour

There are a number of practice approaches available to social workers to assist families to implement the above. Some of these are summarised below and are available as separate topics on this website via the home/contents buttons. Other topics that may assist include brief intervention and co-regulation.

2. When a social worker discovers a higher-weight issue in the context of supporting parents with another issue

The ‘child aware practice’ approach (see elsewhere on this website using the home/contents buttons) suggests exploring the impact of parent or family issues on children should be regularly raised with adults, who may not realise their problems manifest in children in different ways. Hunter (2022c) suggests practitioners should discern whether or not a problem exists by exploring the family’s strengths and needs:

  • Explore the family’s skills and strategies to give an indication of how the family is currently coping.

  • Discern the child’s general mental health and wellbeing—their relationship with family members, peers and teachers, routines and home life, and interests and activities.

  • Talk about the family, e.g. worries parents may have, lifestyle factors (sleep routines, physical activities, eating routines), parents knowledge about healthy lifestyles, and parents attitudes about their own and child’s weight.

If higher weight emerges as an issue Hunter (2022c) suggests the following steps:


1. Name the concern, indicating you have the concern, not the parent. Ask for permission to discuss it further. If the parent doesn’t agree reassure them you are there to help should they change their mind, or, if now is not a good time, make another time in the future to meet.


2. If the discussion happens, its aim will be to focus on unhelpful parental weight-related attitudes and behaviours that may be contributing to the issue. It’s important to demonstrate to parents an understanding of the level of challenge involved and that the practitioner is not judging them. For example a parent may:

  • Focus on their child’s weight and weight loss rather than health

  • Criticise the child’s weight/size/shape based on the misconception that it will motivate the child to lose weight

  • Display their own body dissatisfaction and expresses unhappiness about their own weight in front of the child

3. Seek parents’ initial thoughts about the concern raised—establish a shared understanding of the concern


4. Summarise the information and ask parents if they’re concerned

  1. If the parent is not concerned,let the family know that they are welcome to make a further appointment if they would like to discuss it. It is good practice for the practitioner to raise this issue again at the next appointment.

  2. If the parent is concerned invite them to work with the practitioner. As discussed elsewhere in this topic, addressing higher weight should ideally involve a whole-of- family response rather than a focus on the child alone.

Hunter (2022a) provides four guidelines that should form the basis for practitioners when supporting families’ efforts to manage higher weight in children.

  • Build a strengths-based therapeutic relationship with families by demonstrating care, warmth and trust. This is essential to supporting children. If parents feel judged or shamed, they are less likely to engage with, and follow through with, any proposed intervention. Use empathic and empowering counselling techniques (e.g. those mentioned above) to avoid parents feeling judged or shamed.

  • Use non-stigmatising language as outlined above. Focus on health rather than weight. Discuss weight stigma, bullying and teasing with parents, highlighting how parents’ own negative weight-related language may impact on children/s wellbeing.

  • Provide children and parents with clear and simple information, preferably in visual or written formats. Consider the family’s specific context. Explore barriers and readiness for change. Using one of the practice approaches mentioned above will assist with this process.

  • Intervene early with whole-of-family interventions that focus on wellbeing, goal setting, healthy eating, physical exercise and sleep quality rather than the children’s weight.

References / Supporting Material

Practitioner and Parent Resources

Three sections follow: references, practitioner resources, and parent resources.


References

Abikar, A., Micheletto, A., & MacVean M. (2022). Childhood higher weight and mental health. https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/childhood-higher-weight-and-mental-health/

Beyond Blue. (2022). Be you: Mental health continuum. https://beyou.edu.au/resources/mental-health-continuum


Commonwealth of Australia. (2022). The National Obesity Strategy 2022-2032. Health Ministers Meeting. https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/national-obesity-strategy-2022-2032


Hunter. C. (2022a). Higher weight and mental health and wellbeing in childhood. https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/higher-weight-mental-health-wellbeing-in-childhood/


Hunter, C. (2022b). Higher weight and mental health in children: Parent guide. https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/higher-weight-and-mental-health-in-children-parent-guide/


Hunter, C. (2022c). Raising child mental health concerns with parents of children with higher weight. https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/raising-child-mental-health-concerns-with-parents-of-children-with-higher-weight/


Kelly, R., Hatzikiriakidis, K., & Kuswara, K. (2022). Inequities in obesity: Indigenous, culturally and linguistically diverse, and disability perspectives. Public Health Research and Practice, 32(3), e3232225. https://doi.org/10.17061/phrp3232225 https://www.phrp.com.au/issues/october-2022-volume-32-issue-3/inequities-in-obesity-indigenous-culturally-and-linguistically-diverse-and-disability-perspectives/


Lawrence, B. J., de la Piedad Garcia, X., Kite, J., Hill, B., Cooper, K., Flint, S. W., & Dixon, J. B. (2022). Weight stigma in Australia: a public health call to action. Public Health Research and Practice, 32(3), e3232224. https://doi.org/10.17061/phrp3232224 https://www.phrp.com.au/issues/october-2022-volume-32-issue-3/weight-stigma-in-australia


/Partridge, S. R., Sim, K. A., Armaghanian, N., Steinbeck, K. S., & Cheng, H. L. (2022). Adolescence and young adulthood: An untapped window of opportunity for obesity prevention. Public Health Research and Practice, 32(3), e3232223. https://doi. org/10.17061/phrp3232223 https://www.phrp.com.au/issues/october-2022-volume-32-issue-3/obesity-prevention-in-adolescents-and-young-adults/


Raising children: The Australian parenting website. (2021). Childhood obesity. https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/nutrition-fitness/common-concerns/child-obesity


Raising children: The Australian Parenting Website. (2022). Overweight and obesity management: Pre-teens and teenagers. https://raisingchildren.net.au/guides/a-z-health-reference/overweight-obesity-in-teens


Practitioner Resources

Source: Hunter (2022a)


Information on aspects of a healthy lifestyle

Healthy eating

  • Healthy eating for children – Healthdirect https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/healthy-eating-for-children

  • Healthy eating habits for children – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/nutrition-fitness/healthy-eating-habits/healthy-eating-habits

  • Healthy eating habits for teenagers – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-eating-habits/healthy-eating-habits-teens

  • Cooking with kids and teenagers – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/family-life/family-meals-cooking/cooking-with-kids-teens

Sleeping

  • Sleep tips for children – Healthdirect https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/sleep-tips-for-children

  • Babies: Sleep – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/sleep

  • Toddlers: Sleep – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/sleep

  • School-age: Sleep–RaisingChildrenNetwork https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/sleep

  • Sleep and teenagers: 12–18 years – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/healthy-lifestyle/sleep/sleep-teens

Physical activity

  • Benefits of physical activity for children – Healthdirect https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/benefits-of-physical-activity-for-children

  • Healthy and active children – Healthdirect https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/healthy-and-active-children

  • Physical activity – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/search?query=physical+activity

  • Get Up & Grow – Healthy eating and physical activity for early childhood – Resource collection – Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care https://www.health.gov.au/resources/collections/get-up-grow-resource-collection

Promoting positive body image

  • Body image – National Eating Disorders Collaboration https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/body-image/

  • Body image: Pre-teens and teenagers (9–18 years) – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/pre-teens/healthy-lifestyle/body-image/body-image-teens

  • Confident body, confident child (2–6 years) – Body Confident Collective https://www.confidentbody.net/about.html

  • Body image – tips for parents – Better Health Channel https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/body-image-tips-for-parents

  • Developing positive body image – Kids Helpline https://kidshelpline.com.au/teens/issues/developing-positive-body-image

Next steps

The following resource offers a step-by-step process to have conversations with the family. It will support work with families in a way that maintains engagement and:

  • Avoids further stigmatising children

  • Shifts the focus from weight to healthy living, and

  • Supports children’s body positivity and self-esteem

See Raising child mental health concerns with parents of children with higher weight. https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/raising-child-mental-health-concerns-with-parents-of-children-with-higher-weight


Further practice strategies for supporting the wellbeing of children with higher weight can be found in the online course: Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children with higher weight. https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/supporting-the-mental-health-of-children-with-higher-weight/


In addition to these resources the following may help:


Higher weight and mental health in children: Parent guide https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/higher-weight-and-mental-health-in-children-parent-guide/


Childhood higher weight and mental health fact sheet https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/childhood-higher-weight-and-mental-health/


Understanding child mental health and chronic physical conditions online course https://emergingminds.com.au/online-course/understanding-child-mental-health-and-chronic-physical-conditions/


Further information on higher weight and related topics

National Eating Disorders Collaboration https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/

Australia & New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders (ANZAED) https://www.anzaed.org.au/

Butterfly Foundation https://butterfly.org.au/

Confident Body, Confident Child https://www.confidentbody.net/about.html

Developing a positive body image resource https://kidshelpline.com.au/teens/issues/developing-positive-body-image

Self-esteem in children: 1 - 8 years https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/behaviour/understanding-behaviour/about-self-esteem

Dieticians Australia https://dietitiansaustralia.org.au/

Life! https://lifeprogram.org.au/

Obesity Evidence Hub https://www.obesityevidencehub.org.au/


Support services for children and families

The family GP & psychologist

Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

Healthdirect https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/

Kids Helpline https://kidshelpline.com.au/

Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/

Parentline https://parentline.com.au/

Raising children network https://raisingchildren.net.au/


Parent Resources

Sources: Hunter (2022b) & Abikar, Micheletto & MacVean (2022)


Information on aspects of a healthy lifestyle

Healthy eating

  • Healthy eating for children – Healthdirect https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/healthy-eating-for-children

  • Healthy eating habits for children – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/nutrition-fitness/healthy-eating-habits/healthy-eating-habits

  • Healthy eating habits for teenagers – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-eating-habits/healthy-eating-habits-teens

  • Cooking with kids and teenagers – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/family-life/family-meals-cooking/cooking-with-kids-teens

Sleeping

  • Sleep tips for children – Healthdirect https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/sleep-tips-for-children

  • Babies: Sleep – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/sleep

  • Toddlers: Sleep – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/sleep

  • School-age: Sleep–RaisingChildrenNetwork https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/sleep

  • Sleep and teenagers: 12–18 years – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/healthy-lifestyle/sleep/sleep-teens

Physical activity

  • Benefits of physical activity for children – Healthdirect https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/benefits-of-physical-activity-for-children

  • Healthy and active children – Healthdirect https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/healthy-and-active-children

  • Physical activity – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/search?query=physical+activity

  • Get Up & Grow – Healthy eating and physical activity for early childhood – Resource collection – Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care https://www.health.gov.au/resources/collections/get-up-grow-resource-collection

Promoting positive body image

  • Body image – National Eating Disorders Collaboration https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/body-image/

  • Body image: Pre-teens and teenagers (9–18 years) – Raising Children Network https://raisingchildren.net.au/pre-teens/healthy-lifestyle/body-image/body-image-teens

  • Confident body, confident child (2–6 years) – Body Confident Collective https://www.confidentbody.net/about.html

  • Body image – tips for parents – Better Health Channel https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/body-image-tips-for-parents

  • Developing positive body image – Kids Helpline https://kidshelpline.com.au/teens/issues/developing-positive-body-image

Further resources

Higher weight and mental health in children: Parent guide https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/higher-weight-and-mental-health-in-children-parent-guide/


Further practice strategies for supporting the wellbeing of children with higher weight can be found in the online course: Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children with higher weight. https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/supporting-the-mental-health-of-children-with-higher-weight/


Childhood higher weight and mental health fact sheet https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/childhood-higher-weight-and-mental-health/


Further information

Dieticians Australia https://dietitiansaustralia.org.au/

Life! https://lifeprogram.org.au/

National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/

Obesity Evidence Hub https://www.obesityevidencehub.org.au/


Support services for children and families

The family GP & psychologist

Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

Healthdirect https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/

Kids Helpline https://kidshelpline.com.au/

Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/

Parentline https://parentline.com.au/

Raising children network https://raisingchildren.net.au/