Q: My 6-year-old granddaughter is overweight. Most of the children make fun of her. She doesn't have many friends, although she tries hard to be friendly. We tell her to ignore them, but then they hit her. What can we do?
A: Parents who called Child Life say the adults in this child's life must first protect her from these aggressive children and then build her self-esteem.
"This child needs to be protected physically," says a reader from Raleigh, N.C. "Children can't be allowed to hit her. She's too young to be able to work through this by herself."
Talk to the parents of the other children, and if the hitting occurs at school, discuss it with the child's teacher and principal, says Leanne Domash, a child psychologist.
Lots of readers say the girl may feel better about herself if she develops a skill. "Whether it be sports, drama or drawing, if she can find something that she can be really good at, it will give her pride in herself and others will admire her," says Tracy Gulan of San Jose, Calif.
Finally, pay attention to your entire family's eating habits, says Virginia Hammarlund, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Alabama, who studies obese children.
Don't put the child on a diet or focus too much on her weight, she says; instead replace all junk food in the house with nutritious fruits and vegetables.