Dear Amy: I'm the relative of a 12-year-old girl who is unhealthily overweight, and I'm concerned for her.
Another family member once expressed concern about her weight and eating habits to the father, and his response was “stay out of it.” We in the family have expressed our concerns to each other, especially because there is a history of diabetes in the family.
Is there a way to address this tactfully with the family, without hurting the 12-year-old's self-esteem and without causing ill will within the family?
Dear Concerned: You might make some headway if you frame this as a health issue.
Because you're the one writing to me, I vote for you to have this conversation with the girl's parents (not with her). You say: “As Mindy gets older, I'm worried more and more about her health. We have a history of diabetes in the family, and I'd like to be helpful.”
Your relatives might tell you to buzz off. If so, you need to respect the parents' choice – even if you feel it is a poor one.
You can still attempt to influence this young girl by spending time with her and introducing her to some activities she might enjoy, such as bowling, swimming or hiking. Her self-esteem is partially influenced by how she thinks others view her. If you think she's terrific, regardless of her size, then she will like the way she feels when she's around you. This can have a positive impact on her.