As weight loss surgery patients, many of us have children. One thing I have learned over the years after having bariatric surgery is how many questions kids ask. I have a five-year-old son and the farther out I get in my journey, the more I realize how curious he is about my weight loss surgery. There are some questions I have been prepared to answer while there have been others that I was not expecting. I think it is important to talk to our children about health and part of that is by explaining what weight loss surgery is and why we decided to have the procedure.
It can be difficult to know how much information you should share to your children about your weight loss surgery. I think it is important to remember that every child is different in terms of the level of maturity and the information that is appropriate to tell them. However, I have learned that even with a small child you can start explaining the surgery so they understand your behaviors. My five-year-old son has started to ask questions and it made me realize that I needed to have a conversation with him about my health. He has started to ask why he has to finish everything on his plate but I do not have to. He also wonders why I sometimes order the same things as him off of kid’s menus. I did not realize how much he was paying attention until he started making comments about how I cannot have sugar like other people can or else I can get really sick. It made me recognize that he was ready to have the conversation.
I first started by explaining how important it is to eat healthy and exercise. Luckily, he understands this concept quite well and knows that he can get sick and unhealthy if he does not take care of himself. I talked about how I have struggled with getting healthy my entire life and that I needed a toolkit to help me. Once I started talking about my toolkit, it started to click for him. We talked about how sometimes people just need a little extra help, and for me it is with my weight that I need help. Once I started with the basics, I told him that I had surgery to make my stomach smaller. I did a short lesson on how that worked, without getting too far in the details. Surprisingly, he seemed to understand. We then discussed how this affects how much food I can take in at a time. I think once he understood that my stomach was smaller, it made sense to why I could never finish my food. We talked about how I am really sensitive to sugar so that is why I can’t eat a lot of ice cream anymore. It really helped talking it out with him.
The most important thing to me during this conversation was that he understood how important it is to put your health first. I do not want to hide behind my surgery. I think it is important to teach our children that sometimes we need extra help. This surgery is a tool and one that many of us need to be successful on our weight loss journey. There should not be any shame. We all parent differently, but I know we all want what is best for our children. I want to teach him that it is ok to ask for help if you need it. I also want him to understand how dangerous it can be to not prioritize your health. Now that he has a better understanding of my surgery and why I do some of the things I do, I think it has helped him take care of himself better too.
Telling our children about the surgery can be challenging, but it can really make a difference when they have a little more education on the procedure. I feel like it brought us closer and it makes him more aware of what it takes to be as healthy as possible. If you have children, I encourage you to talk to them about why you had surgery so they can better understand you. It will really set them up for success by understanding how important you value your health and why they should strive to do the same.