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How to Help Your Child with an Eating Disorder

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An eating disorder is a huge problem for anyone, but it is so much more devastating when your child develops one. It can be a prelude to tragedy, considering that every 62 minutes a person dies as a consequence of this condition. Therefore, it is essential that you provide your child with treatment and support as early as possible. Eating disorders can be managed if you pay attention to the problem and get proper treatment. Working together with your child, you will be able to help him or her through this experience and emerge stronger for it.

Helping Your Child with an Eating Disorder: Where to Start?

A huge problem with eating disorders is that they often go unnoticed and undiagnosed, so every parent should be aware of the signs of an eating disorder. It doesn’t matter whether you think your kids might actually have one or not. You should be prepared in case you notice worrying behavior and need to act.

You should also consider possible risk factors. For example, low self-esteem, bullying, and weight-shaming all present a major risk (NEDA). Being overweight also makes kids vulnerable, as they often become targeted by bullies. Your own behavior and attitudes might be a risk factor if you often draw attention to your childrens’ appearance and try to force them to exercise or diet in order to change it. Parents might be doing this out of love and concern for their children, for example to help an overweight child to become healthier. However, kids might misinterpret your concern and so it is always better to explain it directly to avoid any misunderstandings.

Your Child Has an Eating Disorder: What’s Next?

If your child does indeed have an eating disorder, the first thing to do is to get him or her a good therapist. This kind of issue cannot be resolved through familial support alone and there is a serious risk to your child’s life and health. You need to take strong measures immediately and use the therapist’s recommendations to guide you forward.

An eating disorder is a complicated mental health issue, which occurs due to a combination of factors. This means it is nearly impossible to cure it by ‘resolving the underlying problem.’ There are far too many underlying problems in this case and their exact connections are impossible to determine.

The treatment of eating disorders is therefore mostly focused on complex therapy and work with a dietician. Both are equally important, as the dietician will need to develop an eating plan that will help your child repair the damage caused by the condition. The therapist will be providing help to motivate your child to stick to the assigned diet and address any underlying causes.

There are specialized facilities for eating disorders, which address mental health issues and can take in patients for an extended treatment course. While these facilities can be quite effective, they can result in separation of children from the support system of their family. It is important to evaluate with mental health professionals the best course of treatment for your child.

You will also need to educate yourself on eating disorders right away. Check out common eating disorder myths as well as detailed information on the condition from specialized health care sources, such as the American Psychiatric Association or National Eating Disorders Collaboration. Studying this information will help you understand what to expect from this problem and the chances for recovery.

How to Help Your Child with an Eating Disorder: Provide Support

  • Talk about the problem calmly.
    It’s essential that you do not judge your child or express any negativity or aggression during this discussion. You also need to make an effort to word your sentences to start with “I” instead of “you”. For example, say, “I’ve noticed that you don’t seem happy lately. I’m worried,” not “You’re unhappy, what’s wrong?” You need to explain in detail the reasoning behind your concern.
  • Do not talk about your child’s appearance.
    Discuss this matter with the therapist, but in most cases, it is preferable to avoid discussions of looks completely. Note that you need to stop making both negative remarks and compliments.
  • Offer your unconditional support.
    Of course, you will support your child in treatment to help him or her get better. You know it, as does any reasonable adult. However, don’t forget that children with eating disorders are by nature extremely insecure. This means that you need to reassure them directly in words, and then continue proving it through actions. Never judge, show resentment, or berate your child, even if progress is slow.
  • Never offer a “simple solution” or prompt them with useless platitudes.
    Phrases like “You only need to accept yourself,” or “You look just great, so ignore whatever is bothering you,” should not be used at all. An eating disorder is a mental health condition, which requires complex treatment. A person cannot simply ‘get over it’ or overpower it through sheer will. Dismissing this major medical problem like some minor inconvenience is the reason why eating disorders lead to so many tragedies.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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Author Bio: “I’m Agatha Singer, a proud mother of two, working from home. Since becoming a mom, I’ve started researching every possible way to help my children grow up happy and healthy. I’m always happy to share my research and hope it helps you protect your babies as well. Read about my discoveries at agsinger.com.”


Photo by Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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