Listen to doctor about child's healthy weight

November 12, 2012 

Q: My 8-year-old son was born prematurely and weighed only 3 pounds. He is still too thin, in my opinion, although his doctor isn’t worried about it. I have been trying to get him to gain weight his whole life. In preschool, kindergarten and first grade I did not pack a special lunch for him. My mother convinced me to start packing his lunch this year. He seems to be eating a bit more, but is overall just as picky. What should I do?

Because parent concerns about children who don’t eat much and are underweight are fairly common, I’ve asked the expert opinions of two pediatricians. Both tell me the same thing: First, if the child in question is healthy and active, then he or she is eating enough; second, being overweight is more of a problem than being slightly underweight (the childhood obesity problem is perhaps America’s major childhood health issue); third, if the child’s physician has been consulted and is not concerned, then there is almost certainly no problem. It is the extremely rare child in America who suffers from malnutrition, the symptoms of which – lethargy, distended belly, dizziness, significant weight loss – are indicators that something drastic is wrong.

In all likelihood, his prematurity sensitized you to health issues. I can only advise you to relax and trust your son’s physician.

8th-grader wants iPhone

Q: My daughter is in eighth grade and a straight-A student. She turns 13 in a week and the iPhone 5 is on top of her wish list. She has told me all of her friends have one. My response was that I typically don’t do what other parents do, and I am not able to justify spending that amount of money on something she doesn’t need. What do you think I should do?

A 13-year-old whose only material complaint is that she lacks an iPhone is not deprived. Four things I’ve said before in this column bear repeating: First, it is healthy and ultimately strengthening for children to not have everything their friends have. Children need to learn that keeping up with the Jacks and Jills at school is not the key to happiness. Second, children do not need cellphones until they begin to drive (maybe). There is no evidence that they are life-saving and plenty of evidence that their use is life-threatening. Third, teens use cellphones primarily to text one another. They do not promote proper communication or a healthy social experience. Fourth, my recommendation is that a child should get a cellphone when he or she can afford to buy one and pay the monthly bill. Your financial priorities should rule.

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