Supporting the mental health of children with higher weight - The Sector
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Supporting the mental health of children with higher weight

November 01, 2022

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Emerging Minds





Practitioners can play a central role in supporting children with higher weight. Working with children and parents to prevent or intervene early when mental health difficulties might be emerging is key. But how we approach this, the language we use and the trust we build with families is important.

The use of the term higher weight throughout this course and its supporting materials has been recommended by practitioners and child and family partners as an alternative to overweight and obese, which can be highly stigmatising and may negatively impact children.1

About this course

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Around 1 in 4 Australian children experience higher weight2. And while the causes are varied and complex, it has been found to be one of the most stigmatised conditions for children and their families1, resulting in negative mental health outcomes across a lifetime.

This course and supporting resources will help you develop an understanding of the links between higher weight and mental health in childhood and build collaborative relationships with children and families.

It includes four key practice strategies:

  • Addressing weight stigma and bullying
  • Supporting the child’s best and healthiest life
  • Using positive and non-judgmental language; and,
  • Developing a team around the child.

These strategies are designed to support practitioners to have sensitive, non-shaming and positive conversations with parents and children to help families overcome stigma and plan for their healthiest life.

Who is this course for?

The course will support a broad range of practitioners to understand the impact of higher weight on the mental health of children. The course does not offer specific guidance on providing advice about diet or exercise. However, it does provide support for non-stigmatising conversations with children and families who are concerned about weight.

What is included in the course?

This course features fictional video demonstrations of conversations between practitioners and a family, video interviews with children, practitioners and parents, along with reading materials and reflective activities. It is designed to be undertaken individually, but can also be used as a prompt for conversations between colleagues.

How was the course developed?

This course was developed in collaboration with academic stakeholders, child and family services, practitioners including child mental health experts, and children and parents with lived experience.

How long does the course take?

This course will take you approximately two hours to complete, including reading material and watching videos.

You can undertake the course across multiple sessions at your own pace. The last screen you visit before logging off will be bookmarked and you will have the option of returning to that screen when you next log in.


1. Puhl, R. & Suh, Y. (2015). Stigma and eating and weight disorders. Current Psychiatry Reports, 17(10). doi: 10.1007/s11920-015-0552-6.
2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020). Australia’s children: Overweight and obesity. Cat. no. CWS 69. Canberra: AIHW.

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