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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 09/19/2011

Which would you rather discuss with your teen, sex or weight?

Does the prospect of having “the talk” with your child make you nervous?

Not THAT talk. I meant the one about weight.

An interesting survey conducted this summer for WebMD and Sanford Health polled parents, kids and pediatricians about their attitudes toward discussing topics such as drugs, sex, tobacco use, drinking and weight. Among those, weight was the topic parents of older teens said they were least comfortable addressing.

Among parents of teens ages 13 to 17, 95 percent said they felt comfortable talking about alcohol with their kids and 88 percent were comfortable talking about sex. Just 78 percent said they were comfortable discussing their child’s weight with him or her.

Among those with children ages 8 to 12, 90 percent said they were fine with talking about smoking, 78 percent about weight and 63 percent about sex.

A hefty 84 percent of the parents thought they didn’t need to talk about weight with their kids because they thought their kids’ weight was just fine, thank you very much. But that doesn’t quite jibe with national statistics showing that a third of U.S. children are overweight or obese.

Nearly one-fifth (19 percent) of parents surveyed believed it was primarily a physician’s job to talk with a kid about weight. For their part, most doctors (93 percent) reported that they do talk with overweight patients about their weight; slightly less than half (47 percent) reported talking about it with normal-weight patients. Ninety percent of the 500 doctors surveyed said it was the single most important health issue parents should discuss with their children.

Of the 1,078 kids (ages 7-18) who took part, 50 percent said they didn’t need to talk with their parents about weight because their weight was normal. As to who would be more embarrassed by a talk about weight, kids or parents, 72 percent of the kids said the kids would be.

The survey was conducted in conjunction with the launch of a Web site called “fit” that’s aimed at promoting health and wellness and preventing obesity among kids ages 2 to 18. The site has age-appropriate tips and activities for kids in three age groups plus information for parents about how to help their children maintain a healthy weight.

Surveys can give you a snapshot of a situation, but it seems to me that how comfortable parents and kids feel about discussing weight must depend in large part on the mix of individual personalities, the food and activity culture in the household, whether the kid’s approaching a growth spurt and all kinds of other factors.

And maybe some of those reluctant parents were harkening back to their teen years and remembering how they reacted when their folks mentioned their weight. I remember all too vividly — and thus tread lightly.

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 09/19/2011

 
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