The Star Early Edition - - LIFESTYLE VERVE -

THE NUM­BER of over­weight chil­dren in Africa is on the rise and it can be dif­fi­cult to shop for them with­out giv­ing them a com­plex.

Chil­dren who weigh more than other chil­dren their age are some­times the sub­jects of bul­ly­ing.

This can es­pe­cially be ex­ac­er­bated by par­ents who do not pay at­ten­tion to the fit of a child’s clothes be­fore send­ing them out into the world.

Ac­cord­ing to the Heart and Stroke Foun­da­tion, child obe­sity is on the rise. On World Obe­sity Day last year the foun­da­tion re­ported that: “The pop­u­la­tion group that is most vul­ner­a­ble to this ‘obe­so­genic’ en­vi­ron­ment is chil­dren.

Both chil­dren of over­weight par­ents and chil­dren sub­jected to mal­nu­tri­tion dur­ing preg­nancy or in­fancy are likely to be­come obese later in life. Chil­dren are brought up in an era of energy dense foods, in­creas­ing screen time and seden­tary be­hav­iour.”

While many agree that chil­dren need to get off the video games and go and play out­side more of­ten and that it would be wise for them to par­tic­i­pate in ex­tra­mu­ral ac­tiv­i­ties that en­cour­age fit­ness, there is some­thing that can be done to im­me­di­ately get them to feel bet­ter about them­selves.

We spoke to Bev­er­ley Smith, a spe­cial­ist buyer for kidswear ( girls aged 2 to 7) for a ma­jor re­tail com­pany. While she was adamant that shop­ping for an over­weight child was not a prob­lem she of­ten en­coun­tered in her line of work, she ad­mit­ted: “When I in­ter­act with women some of them talk to me about their chil­dren’s weight is­sues but the nor­mal re­ac­tion is to just buy a size up. That means if their lit­tle girl is 7 years old, and she needs to buy clothes that are sized 8 to 9 years old, then she falls out of my bracket.”

While Smith has been ap­pointed a fash­ion buyer for boys cloth­ing in the past, she says that it’s more dif­fi­cult to shop for girls.

This means it can also be more dif­fi­cult for over­weight girls to get in on trends that are not avail­able in their sizes.

“For lit­tle girls, par­ents still lean more to­wards gen­der stereo­types when buy­ing for their chil­dren. So that would be your pinks and pur­ples, your soft yel­lows and white colours. With these age groups, a lot of the chil­dren are still at pre-school so a huge por­tion of the buy­ing is uni­form-type of cloth­ing.

“Things that are com­fort­able like leg­gings and pull-on-shorts and pull-on pants. So that when they are at school, they can go to the loo by them­selves with­out too much as­sis­tance. Par­ents are lean­ing more to­wards char­ac­ter prod­ucts like Bar­bie and Frozen and what is typ­i­cally a princess look. Boys don’t have skirts and dresses and things like leg­gings so that makes it eas­ier,” says Smith.

Build­ing con­fi­dence in chil­dren who are work­ing on get­ting fit­ter is key. One of the ways to do that is for par­ents to en­cour­age the chil­dren to make their own de­ci­sions about the clothes they wear as this is a form of self-ex­pres­sion.

Smith says: “I get a lot of feed­back from par­ents that chil­dren par­tic­i­pate in de­cid­ing on the clothes that they want to wear pretty much from the time that they can talk.

“They of­ten are a part of the morn­ing rou­tine any­way. The older the chil­dren get, the more they com­mu­ni­cate, which means the more as­sertive they get about what clothes they will and will not wear.

“All chil­dren par­tic­i­pate in the cloth­ing de­ci­sion no mat­ter what weight they are.

“They know what colours they like and what styles they want to wear.”

She con­tin­ues: “Maybe the only dif­fer­ence is mothers of over­weight chil­dren are more par­tic­u­lar in hav­ing the chil­dren ac­tu­ally try on clothes in the store in­stead of just buy­ing the clothes and then try­ing them on at home.

“Oth­er­wise, the chil­dren are al­ready sig­nif­i­cantly in­volved in mak­ing de­ci­sions.

“(Par­ents) need to speak lov­ingly about their bod­ies and as­sure them that they can wear the same things as other chil­dren their age if they want to. Most par­ents take an item in the store and just go and pay but if you know your child’s body is dif­fer­ent, take two dif­fer­ent sizes and make sure that the child tries the clothes on be­fore you go and pay.”

When it comes to fash­ion, par­ents of­ten buy at least one size up for their chil­dren who are over­weight.

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