Posted by William on February 7, 2012
Parental involvement, through a helper role or as a support system for weight loss, is a common component of treatment for overweight children. However, the role of parents in the treatment of adolescents is less clear. Current research findings are mixed but offer some support for including parents in treatment—although typically in a group separate from the teenager. Our clinical experience confirms these findings. Adolescents often express discomfort when meeting together with their parents in group sessions. Teenagers find it difficult to talk about their needs and feel awkward sharing their thoughts on issues regarding weight management. However, we also have found that a lack of parental involvement leads to poor outcome and early drop out in weight management programs.
An important question that needs to be addressed is: How should parents be involved in their teenager’s weight loss efforts? This really depends on the teenager’s needs and level of maturity. While younger adolescents may need assistance from parents to follow a diet, older or more mature adolescents may resist this assistance and desire greater independence. Some adolescents request that their parents provide friendly “nagging” throughout the week as a helpful reminder, while other adolescents are reluctant to enlist their parents’ assistance. Many adolescents tend to fall somewhere between these two extremes, requesting gentle encouragement from parents but asking their parents to avoid “nagging” on a daily basis. By encouraging open communication about these issues, many families are able to reach an agreement about the teenager’s level of responsibility and the amount of parental involvement in the key areas that lead to successful weight management.