January 29, 2010 in Features

Carolyn Hax: Dad, weight talk isn’t helping her

Carolyn Hax Washington Post
 

Hello, Carolyn: Help. My 22-year-old daughter, a college senior, has gained weight over the past two years. Every holiday she returns home bigger than before.

Whenever I bring up the subject, she walks away in an angry storm, saying that if I bring up the issue again, she will stop answering my calls.

Her mother, my wife, thinks this is my problem, and that I am too concerned with looks. As a concerned father, I feel I have the right to discuss my daughter’s weight from a health and appearance point of view.

Moreover, I only want to help. Does Dad have a role here or should he bridle his tongue? – Va.

You have a right to talk about whatever you want, and certainly a father is in a fine position to help.

But I have to ask: What assistance do you think you’re providing your daughter?

Does this college-educated 22-year-old need you to tell her that most fast food has a lot of calories and bad fat? That without exercise, her body probably won’t burn all that energy? Does she – or anyone, for that matter, with even semi-fitted clothing and a mirror – need you to tell her she’s getting fatter?

Meanwhile, your harping on weight encourages her to dwell on it.

There are two things that will tell you the difference between a passing phase and a serious problem, and neither of them involves your asking her whether she jogged today.

The first is to listen to her. Not about what you think is important for you to know, but about what she thinks is important to say. Hear your daughter. Love her. Get to know her.

The second is to give her enough time and space to figure herself out, before you elbow your way in to declare her in need of fixing. Why alienate your daughter (and introduce baggage) over a problem that she, time, and even graduation, might very well solve on their own?


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