If you have a grandchild who is overweight or is struggling with obesity, you don’t have to be a nutritionist to be part of the solution. Overweight children are prone to low self-esteem, negative body image, depression and anxiety. They tend to withdraw from the world and eat more when they feel bad about themselves. You can help your grandchild break this pattern by introducing them to the joy of using their inherent creativity as an alternative to overeating and isolation.
Guiding kids towards their natural creativity provides them with tools to express their feelings in productive ways instead of trying to eat away the pain. I call this process The Creative Imperative. The Creative Imperative helps eradicate feelings of emptiness while creating positive change. For overweight children this is especially important because how they see themselves now will impact them for the rest of their lives. So how can you help your grandchild using The Creative Imperative?
FIND YOUR GRANDCHILD’S CREATIVE LANGUAGE. Every person has a natural language of expression. Is your grandchild more of a painter? A writer? Does she take pictures, build models or plant flowers? Encourage your grandchild to use their language to develop and share a creative project. This teaches them to express themselves in a positive way, especially if talking directly about their feelings is too difficult.
If you are not sure what your grandchild’s natural creative language is, just watch them. What are their hobbies? Are there any activities that don’t include watching TV or playing videogames that your grandchild likes to do for extended periods of time? If your grandchild’s talent is not obvious, it just means that you might need to do a little digging. Does he prefer to read? If so, try encouraging him to write a story. Perhaps she is more of a crafter, and enjoys making things. If so, get some crafts materials and see what she does.
SHARE A CREATIVE PROJECT. Children can feel better about themselves through sharing the creative process. Sharing creativity provides an opportunity for interpersonal connection and demonstrates the joy of seeing how creative work can influence other people. Consider sharing your creative passion with your grandchild. If you like to draw, sculpt or needlepoint, ask your grandson or granddaughter if they want to join you. You may be surprised by their response. Even if your invitation isn’t immediately accepted, try creating in front of your grandchildren to see if it inspires them.
By using The Creative Imperative, overweight children can change the course of their lives – both physically and mentally. Getting kids to follow their natural creative instincts is not hard. It gives their self-esteem a boost and makes them less likely to turn to high-calorie foods when life throws them the inevitable curve ball. Kids who have active imaginations build the skills to turn their dreams into action and to transform their negative feelings. If their creative minds are strong, they will be able to use them to solve problems over the course of their lives and grow to be happy and healthy adults.
Video: “Where Is the Creativity?” Dr. Michael talks about helping kids by fostering their creativity [on the television program Daytime]
Ben Michaelis, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who specializes in helping patients achieve mental health and well being through creative expression. He is an adjunct professor of psychology at Columbia University and is on the medical faculty at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, and he is the author of numerous scholarly articles and studies. Dr. Michaelis lives and creates with his wife and two children in New York City.