Social and psychological problems in Children

Obese or overweight children suffer many social and psychological problems.  Social problems usually include bullying, lack of social support, teasing, a separation from peers and relationship issues as they approach their teens.  Psychological issues vary from person to person, but include a lack of positive self-image, lack of confidence, lack of self -esteem and body image issues, which can materialize into psychopathology such as depression and /or worse, a personality disorder.  They can also become the bully to overcompensate for this poor image of self. The treatment most effective is patient education and a strong support system.  For children, this must be a team effort.  By that I mean the entire family must be onboard and involved.  Education on portion size, what is junk food and what is healthy, how to prepare healthy dishes, what snacks are most appropriate, and what type of daily exercise program matches the individual’s likes and needs.  This is often a complete “re-programing” of the learned behavior about food starting with the parents and includes the children.  Dinner is no longer at the drive thru in the back of the family mini van.  Dinner is a “special” time where the family sits together at the table to share a healthy meal and connect socially with one another. The considerations over the age ranges can be tailored to be “age appropriate.”  By that I mean the understanding about healthy eating and that of eating junk food must be a learned process starting in childhood and continuing into adolescence as well as adulthood.  However, it must be taught in a language in which the child understands and with in his or her level of comprehension.      The health benefits of exercise are many.  Besides weight control, regular exercise helps to reduce blood pressure, provides a healthy cardiovascular reserve, decreases stress and helps to produce a more positive affect (positive mood) in people.  Exercise can be a solitary involvement or a social one.  If one belongs to a health club, jogging club, Zumba studio, martial arts school, or any other activity where folks gather, then a platform for increased socialization is set in motion.  This in itself can produce a more positive mood. As an Internationally Certified Martial Arts Instructor, I teach students of all shapes and sizes and ages from 6 years old up to senior citizens.  Working within their limits and with medical clearance from their physician, martial arts provides an excellent platform of exercise.  One hour of Taekwondo burns approximately 700 calories.  The cardiovascular benefits are great and the body range of motion keeps folks feeling young.  A word of caution must be stated here.  Not every black belt is an instructor.  Just because one has the skill and rank, does not mean that he or she can convey information to a student across all age groups or provide a safe environment of training whereby the student reaps the benefit and not the “instructor.”  Truly Certified/ Qualified Martial Arts Instructor’s have no problem providing credentials when asked.  Do not let the collection of plastic trophies fool you.  If it sounds too good to be true, then it most likely is.  Being a Licensed Psychotherapist and an Internationally Certified Martial Arts Instructor with over 35 years experience, I have come across countless numbers of people who either come to counseling due to body image issues, obesity, loss of health due to their weight, lack of self-esteem and social isolation.  They also come to the martial arts school for much of the same reason.  They are looking for “freedom from pain.”  The pain is not always physical, but often emotional.  Counseling can help them to re-write their story and find acceptance.  The martial arts provides them a place where self-esteem, confidence and socialization all meet.  This allows for the student to self-actualize under the instruction of a Certified instructor.  Both as a counselor and a martial arts instructor, I have had to become a coach, pastoral figure, leader, catalyst for change, and a cheerleader.  This comes after I have been to graduate school, obtained a Master’s Degree in Counseling, had 35 years of martial arts training, and became a Certified Instructor at the Master Instructor’s level.  This is a huge demand and one where “trust” is involved.  Please do not be fooled be fad diets or exercise gimmicks.  Diets do not work.  Do not be fooled by a room full of plastic trophies either.  What works is a “lifestyle change.”  One can find that in either counseling or a dojo (martial arts school).  However, always check the credentials of the person you are about to place your trust in and plan to embark upon this new journey with.  This transformation will enhance your life beyond and imagination.

Ken Ducote, MA, NCC, LPC

Licensed Psychotherapist

4Th Degree Black Belt, Internationally Certified Instructor

Louisiana State Director, Tactical Hapkido/Universal Taekwondo Alliance

Owner of Black Dragon Martial Arts, LLC

Prairieville, La. 70769