What Health Risks Result from Childhood Obesity?
September is National Childhood Obesity Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 19% of children (about 1 in 5) in the United States are considered obese. Obesity puts children at an increased risk for serious health conditions, including:
- Sleep apnea;
- Type 2 diabetes; and
- Heart disease.
The Risk of Obesity Is Greater for Children of Divorced Households
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the risk of childhood obesity is directly related to parent-perceived stress. A European study also found that children in divorced households are twice as likely to suffer from obesity.
Can Childhood Obesity Threaten a Parent’s Custody Rights?
Due to the potential health consequences that stem from childhood obesity, a parent who neglects to take steps toward preventing obesity may be vulnerable to child custody litigation. Several recent child custody cases ultimately turned on the issue of childhood obesity.
Under Florida law, child custody is determined based on the child’s best interests. When evaluating the child’s best interests, a Florida court may consider the child’s health and any parenting behavior that is deleterious to the child’s health. Thus, if one parent takes an active role in preventing obesity while the other parent unwittingly promotes it, a court may rely on this fact and award sole custody to the more health-conscious parent.
Accordingly, divorced parents who share joint custody over a child must cooperate with each other to plan a stable and routine diet and exercise regimen for their child. Parents must resist the urge to “buy” their child’s love with candy, junk food, and desserts. Otherwise, a non-cooperating parent could face losing their child in an intense child custody battle.
4 Steps Divorced Parents Can Take to Prevent Childhood Obesity
A poor diet and lack of physical activity are the main culprits behind childhood obesity. Therefore, parents must take an active role in preventing obesity for their children. But maintaining a stable diet and exercise routine can be difficult for divorced parents sharing custody. Thus, in order to promote healthy growth in your child, a shared parenting plan should take the following steps:
- Monitor your child’s growth. Parents should become familiar with their child’s height-to-weight ratio (also known as body mass index or BMI). Use the CDC’s Child and Teen BMI Calculator to monitor for potential weight problems.
- Emphasize fruits and vegetables. Parents can help craft their children’s diet by replacing fatty and sugary foods with fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of high-nutrient, low-calorie food.
- Promote physical exercise. Parents can foster their children’s natural tendencies for play by enrolling them in sports or other age-appropriate physical activities.
- Coordination and specialization. Parents must make their child’s health a priority. Divorced parents must communicate openly about the child’s health and potential weight issues. Parents may want to consider a specialized division of labor. For example, one parent may be in charge of the child’s diet, while the other parent is in charge of exercise. Parents must then respect the other parent’s decisions within their agreed-upon role.
Effective Child Custody Representation Backed by Over 25 Years of Legal Experience
Parenting plans can be a major component in child custody cases. An experienced Altamonte Springs family law attorney at the Law Office of Russell S. Hershkowtiz, LLC can negotiate and prepare an effective parenting plan that serves your child’s best interests.
For more information on child custody issues in a divorce, please contact the Law Office of Russell S. Hershkowitz, LLC at (407) 753-4111 today!