Let’s not blame grandparents for our childhood obesity problem – Mitchell O’Connor

-   Sarah Meade

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD and member of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Monday) said we can’t blame grandparents for our rising childhood problem. Deputy Mitchell O’Connor was responding to media reports today about UK research which found that young children had a 34% higher chance of being overweight if they were minded full-time by their grandparents.


“With Easter nearly upon us, it’s a good time to have a conversation about our attitude towards our children’s diets. While this UK research shows children cared for full-time by their grandparents are a third more likely to be overweight, it’s not fair to simply heap all the blame on granny or granddad.


“It’s down to parents to monitor their children’s food intake, and make sure they are eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise. Most parents would recognise that they are extremely fortunate if their children’s grandparents are in a position to look after them. But that doesn’t mean that grandparents can be held responsible for all bad habits. It’s also worth bearing in mind that some grandparents may find it more difficult to partake in physical activities due to their age.


“Grandparents do, of course, have to take some responsibility though. While it may be tempting to buy your grandchildren the biggest and best Easter egg in the shop, it’s worth remembering that chocolate isn’t the rare treat it once was. Children are eating sugary snacks on a daily basis, and the last thing they need is half a dozen Easter eggs in one weekend. Instead of heaps of Easter eggs, parents and grandparents should consider a trip to the zoo or a simple gift like a book or a toy.


“We cannot ignore our spiralling childhood obesity problem. Almost a third of Irish 7-year-olds are overweight or obese, and the majority of these youngsters will go on to be overweight adults. This not only has an impact on self-esteem, it can have major health implications later in life. And it’s putting increased pressures on our already over-burdened health service.


“We all have a responsibility to ensure our children are eating healthily. Blaming granny or granddad won’t do anything to address the problem. Instead, Irish mums and dads need to have an honest conversation themselves, and with their own parents, to ensure their children are keeping healthy and fit.”


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