Coparent Academy Podcast

Child's Weight Concerns Father

May 09, 2022 Linda VanValkenburg and Ron Gore
Coparent Academy Podcast
Child's Weight Concerns Father
Show Notes Transcript

If the Father labels the Mother as obese, wonder what he will label their child if she gains weight?

In this episode, Ron and Linda discuss how the Father pushing his eight year old daughter to eat right and exercise may negatively effect her body image.  The Father only has the child 10% of the time, so  she will start to resist going to his house?  

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Linda VanValkenburg:

So what have you found on Reddit for us to talk about today?

Ron Gore:

Well, I have a Reddit post here from a gentleman who I think would be an unhappy with my body composition. We can leave it at that probably. In this post, we've got a father says he's divorced, they've got an eight year old daughter living with mom primarily. In fact, he says that he's got the child, one weekend a month. And he says that his daughter has seen steady weight gain over the last year. And he's wondering how to talk with her mother about it. And he doesn't leave it at saying talk to her mother about it. He has to label her, even in the title--her obese mother!

Linda VanValkenburg:

Oh, dear! Oh dear!

Ron Gore:

So yeah, what was your thought about that post?

Linda VanValkenburg:

Well, eight year old daughter, he did actually know a little bit that, you know, at that age from then to 11, or 12. He called it her morphing body-- that she will be changing somewhat. I took my neice shopping for jeans at about 10 or 11. And it was a really not pleasant experience for either of us, because nothing wants to fit a girl at that time.

Ron Gore:

Well, and she said, he says here, she's eight.

Linda VanValkenburg:

Yes , So it's kind of early to be thinking about that And no amount of my, you know, trying to be positive with my niece about how her body was going to be changing a lot in the next two or three years, you know, made her feel any better about the fact that the skinny jeans she wanted didn't fit her. So it's really kind of, hmm, you're on a really tenuous basis with the child, if you do start talking about body changes at this stage of things. Also, the fact that he says he's been living far away for three of the four years since the divorce and only sees her once a month. I would really hate for him to be negative towards her in any way, especially if he's just seeing her that amount of time, but in general, just just not be.

Ron Gore:

I mean, I wasn't super happy with his labeling. Yes, in this whole thing. So starting off saying her obese mother,

Linda VanValkenburg:

and if he's gonna label Mother, what will he do to the child?

Ron Gore:

And, you know, what's his rationale for saying obese? I mean, is he saying medically obese? Is he saying obese according to his standards?

Linda VanValkenburg:

That's what I kind of gathered,

Ron Gore:

That's what I kind of gathered too, you know, and he says that the daughter had always been tall and thin, but the last summer she had, you know, he said, quote, "the beginning of a belly".

Linda VanValkenburg:

That word hit me funny, too. I didn't like it.

Ron Gore:

So what is he so I guess, in the summer, he's maybe seen her in a bathing suit, and the beginning of a belly. And so that tells me that he's being hypercritical on the body of this girl. And I imagine, um, you know, obviously, we're speculating on all of this stuff. But my gut tells me that he's just looking for anything to pick at mom about. And he thinks of mom as being unhealthy and overweight. And so he's eagle eyed for any indication that the daughter is also going to have any kind of being overweight. And I imagine, because he says in the bottom of this, that when she's with him, the child is with him, they exercise and eat well. So I think he probably views himself as important to him in terms of his self image that he's healthy. And he probably feels superior to mom in this regard. And so this is a way for him to gain some moral authority in his mind over the primary custodian, and not just a little primary. I mean, he's got two or three overnights out of 30. So he's got 10%, she's got 90.

Linda VanValkenburg:

And I know sometimes it's difficult if you feel like there is any sort of deficit in the way a child is being raised on the other side of the fence that you would like to...I know sometimes it's an educational thing and so you really pour on if you feel like one parents not supporting, which I do hear a lot from parents that you know, I'm the only one that helps with homework or makes sure that they read every night or you know, that kind of thing. So that parent tends to pour on a lot of the educational stuff to the extent the kid gets so tired of it when they're at that home. And they long for fun that they're going to have at the other house. And so you've got to be careful that you don't pour on too much in a short amount of time, especially if you're the parent that doesn't have that much time. And try to, you know, I'm not saying he needs to take her to McDonald's for every meal like he, he accuses mother of doing when he has her, but he's got to be very careful to make the the eating well, he talks about or the exercise something fun, and very interactive, you know, maybe engage the child in starting to cook those things,

Ron Gore:

That's a good idea!

Linda VanValkenburg:

You know...make it creative and interesting to the child so that it's not like a punishment. You know, it can be fun, but it can also be practically torture to

Ron Gore:

And I can imagine it's quite a change. So let's, let's the kid. But that's you even as an adult wanting to make those changes. say for example, that is not merely catastrophizing on his part, right? The mom really does do primarily McDonald's for breakfast and dinner several days a week, and then frozen meals, otherwise, you then take this eight year old, and you take her one weekend per month, and you're giving her a totally different diet, and you're having her exercise in a way that she's not used to exercising, So that doesn't seem to be a good setup for a happy visitation, just kind of like what you're saying, exactly like me, I've been going to the gym, you know, trying to get in better shape. And I'm real And so if this child does not see herself as having a problem, conscious. And I'm in this class with these people. And I'm not even close to being in the best shape. And I'm real conscious of unless he's underlining that every time he sees her, then why the fact that I have to make it hard enough for myself to justify having gotten up at 5am to go do it, but not so hard, that I'm not going to go the next day. would she be engaged in trying to solve the problem? And so it's fair and the fact that it's a girl. I mean, it's not, you know, totally impossible to start up an eating disorder with a boy either. But with with girls, we just tend to be hyper focused, especially with all the the social media stuff now, you know, everybody's hyper focused on on their bodyweight and how they look compared to whoever is on Tic Tok and it's very worrisome to me. Sure. And the thought that I was saying was that he's actually going to be destroying his message by making something so unattractive to her in terms of the diet and exercise that is going to turn her off of the whole idea. Probably. And the idea that he's got this eight year old, she's about to come into this age, where she's going to be on social media, if she isn't already. And this guy, this Dad is not subtle. You know in his language, his wording, nothing in this is subtle. And so I have a hard time believing that he is not making this known to her. And if she is actually eating these things, and she gets a very different diet... she's eight, she's gonna ask for the kinds of foods that she's used to eating. And what is he telling her? Like, if I were, if I were cross examining this guy, that's always sort of what I think about? I would ask him, How does that conversation go? Like you have her, what do you give her to eat? She's not used to eating this? What's the conversation about?

Linda VanValkenburg:

That's a very good question

Ron Gore:

Because that sort of will give the context of what this little girl thinks.

Linda VanValkenburg:

And what usually happens, I would expect is, because even though I'm not cross examining, I can't help myself sometimes in an intake session, asking something very similar. Oh, so what do you do about that? And typically, they are so happy to share with you the positive things they are doing in that regard, that they tell you the words they're using, and it usually denigrates the mother, in the context of that.

Ron Gore:

it's almost impossible not to and even if he were to provide a perfect answer about what it is that he's saying to the child, the question that I would then have to follow up is, well, did you talk with the mom about it first, and why isn't that a conversation that everybody was having together? Which is why I wouldn't mind asking in cross because there's no answer that I don't like.

Linda VanValkenburg:

And this is this is just one of many issues that you find that parent coordinators work with because you have, you know, even if these people were obviously married, if they got a divorce and living together for some amount of time, they might have been struggling with their, their diet, their menus, you know, while they were together even. And I don't know what kind of, you know, middle ground they reached at that point, but then when people are suddenly apart, you will find that they get -- it can go so many different directions, where, you know, now, they're kind of on the extreme probably, of, they're not still in that middle ground for the most part,

Ron Gore:

Right? Because they're not tempering each other,

Linda VanValkenburg:

Right! That's the word-- tempering And so the child is going from one extreme to the other.

Ron Gore:

You know, I'm a PC, a parenting coordinator. And as a parent coordinator, if this issue were brought to me, I, what I would say is, are you a doctor, is she a doctor, nobody's a doctor, I'm not a doctor. So the child has a doctor, take the child to the doctor, for normal, regular checkup. Without the girl knowing-- the parents both express their concern to the doctor about the diet, and let the doctor make recommendations based on his actual observations, and his or her and clinical training. And then we follow what the doctor says, and then we're not having this conversation anymore.

Linda VanValkenburg:

And the doctor then could be the one and or you following up the doctor's recommendation to maybe have the child work with a dietitian or nutritionist to make sure that certain things are done that might be haven't been followed through with before.

Ron Gore:

Right. But to me, that's the answer. Nobody here is the expert.

Linda VanValkenburg:

I had a case quite a while back, much like this one where the father was all into diet and exercise and the mother not so much...and and the child was weighed by Father, the instant he got her to his house, every single time he saw her. And when the father presented for the intake with me, he was ever so proud of his log that had gone on for a good six, eight months. And all I could think of is, oh my gosh, she's a girl, and you're weighing her--the second you get her to your house, every time? What must she be thinking. And then when I did talk to the girl, of course, it was a huge thing to her. And she dreaded every single time coming to dad's house. And of course, that's why I was seeing them because she was beginning to resist and refuse coming.

Ron Gore:

Wow. And you know, when you have the situation in this particular case, this is not a an eight year old girl who has had a perfectly untraumatic life, right? We all have our issues. But this is an eight year old girl who's already gone through a divorce, and has a father who's lived far away. So it's kind of like that. There's this idea of an eggshell plaintiff in tort cases. So some individuals have a pre existing condition or state that makes them more susceptible to injury, and if you know that the person is in that state, and you do the thing that causes them the injury, then it's actually worse. Right? You can imagine if you knew the person was vulnerable, and you ignore that vulnerability, and you hurt them. So I think of that when I think about how parents treat their kids in coparenting situations.

Linda VanValkenburg:

Wow. Boy does that apply!

Ron Gore:

Because it's not a child who's been without trauma, if we're looking at the score that the child would get on the ACES We already know that they're not at zero.

Linda VanValkenburg:

And that's a child that is experiencing all those changes. And once again, they didn't choose the change,

Ron Gore:

Correct. Yep. So now, all right, we've been picking on Dad. So what should mom-- let's say the dad actually has gone to mom and has expressed concerns to mom and that there are some legitimate bases for these concerns. From mom's perspective, what should mom be doing or saying?

Linda VanValkenburg:

Well, that's the part that we don't know how much of this may be true or not. I know many times one side has told me something like this where you know, he says she has a diet of frozen meals at McDonald's several days a week. If he is questioning --interrogating-- this eight year old about her diet when he has her. she could infer that it's more times than it really is-- kids this age don't really keep a log of how many times a week they do what? And so I would say, this is probably exaggerated to what is actually happening. So, you know, I would want if I were the PC or the therapist, I would want mom to verify for me what is going on food wise with the child. And then I'd want to talk with the child about what is going on food wise. And sometimes it's, it's different, what they will say to me versus a parent that's interrogating, because they're just kind of like, deer caught in the headlight. And they're kind of like, you know, I don't I don't know. I don't know. Okay, yes, that many times a week, you know-- that kind of thing. And so with with me, now, I like to take a child through when I'm interviewing a child for the first time in a divorce situation. I call it a day in the life where you just, you know, you're at one house, what it what are you having for breakfast? And what is morning like, there, you know, what-- do you wake up? How do you do mornings at your house? And, what, a while back, I'll never forget I asked-- her what morning was like at mom's house and, and she said, Oh, we have, mom's in the kitchen when I get up and, and she's cooking me. pancakes and bacon and stuff like that. I mean, it was a real home cooked meal for breakfast. And then I said and what about at Dad's house and she sat there for a little bit looked a little confused. And she goes we don't have breakfast at dad's house. Like she hadn't really even thought about it before. So her father was the one who actually brought her that day, so I got her busy drawing something for me and went out to the waiting room. And I said, curious question for you, Dad, what do you do about breakfast at your house when you have this child? And he did the same kind of confused look. And he goes, I don't get hungry in the morning. Okay, thank you --Verified what your child said, you know,

Ron Gore:

Well, and also indication of an inability to see your child's needs as different from your own, which is one of the key things for parenting-- Wow. Yeah. So that would be helpful in this case, to actually find out from them what the situation is. And then, you know, maybe point to resources.

Linda VanValkenburg:

Yeah, cuz I would hope that first and foremost, that is an exaggeration. And then if not, how would you handle that? As a PC? If you find out? Yeah, this is exactly the way it is that they live on frozen meals and McDonald's, what what would you say to the mother?

Ron Gore:

Well, again, and so when I work as a parenting coordinator, I think of myself primarily as a manager of the situation on some things I may happen to know well, like, I feel like I know well about communication and things like that, that are related to the coparenting but if it comes to something that is not my bailiwick, it's not my area of expertise, then I'm always gonna defer the expert. So I would again, send to the doctor follow up on all recommendations, I'm not going to suggest that I know better, even on something that seems obvious, like McDonald's, it's not for me to say that her diet's unhealthy for her. . So we just need to see what a professional would say. Because then, you know, I feel like there's mission creep there. If I start with that easy case, oh, it's obvious for me to say that you can't have McDonald's every day. That's an obvious case to me. There's actually that show about it, where the guy only ate McDonald's for 30 days, Supersize Me or whatever it was. But it's just it's so easy to then say, well, I knew that thing. So I can I can say I know this thing, or I know that thing. It just doesn't seem to be the right role. So easy for us to pick on the sin that we don't have. You know, just so in this case, Dad maybe is really healthy and eats really well. And that always comes at some cost, and he's willing to pay that cost for the benefit. But he's picking on what may be a vulnerability of moms. And he's doing that in a way that perhaps is helping him to ignore his own parenting vulnerabilities, It's kind of like look to your own house first.

Linda VanValkenburg:

Right...exactly!