Eating disorders often start with low self-esteem and poor body image. Usually, this attitude starts in the home. Parents need to know how to avoid planting the seeds of negative self-image and also how to recognize eating disorders in their children. Parents do not cause eating disorders, but they can be a vital part of prevention and recovery.
Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders: Prevention
Many kids are concerned with how they look, particularly when they go through puberty. Parents can help to foster high self-esteem and a positive body image in their kids. But first, parents need to examine their own body image and their own attitudes towards food and weight. Many unhealthy habits are learned at home. Make a conscious effort to maintain positive attitudes and healthy behaviors
Parents also can unknowingly force their hopes of a perfect appearance on their children. Examine the goals you have set for your children. Are you over-emphasizing appearance and body image? Reduce criticism and blame and reinforcement of the idea that bigger is “bad” and smaller is “good.”
Talk to your kids about healthy ways to get in shape and the dangers of unhealthy dieting and using diet pills. Emphasize that the goal of eating well and exercise is improving health, not being thin. Avoid labeling food as “good” or “bad.” All food can be eaten in moderation.
Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders: Signs
It can be difficult to know whether your child is suffering from an eating disorder. Here are some signs that can alert you there may be a problem.
- Extreme weight loss.
- Hoarding of food or hiding it in strange places to avoid eating or to eat at a later time.
- Refusing to eat certain food.
- Counting calories.
- Dressing in layers or bulky clothes to hide weight loss.
- Developing food rituals (cutting or chewing food a certain number of times, eating in a certain order, rearranging food on plate)
- Negative self-talk (calling themselves “fat” repeatedly)
- Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals.
- Withdrawals from friends and activities, begins to isolate.
- Making excuses for not eating meals or denies being hungry.
- Using diet pills, laxatives, diuretics, ipecac syrup, or enemas.
- Loss of menstrual cycle.
- Pale, sallow skin.
- Complaints of feeling cold.
- Low blood pressure.
- Bruising easily.
- Hair loss.
- Frequent dizziness or headaches.
- Tiring easily.
Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders: Treatment
Eating disorders are real and serious illnesses, but the good news is that they are treatable. With the right treatment, your child can recover from an eating disorder. Early detection, intervention, and ongoing management are key! Eating disorders are serious clinical problems that require professional treatment by doctors, therapists, and nutritionists.
Talk to your child’s doctor about treatment options before you sit down with your child. Speak to your child in a way that avoids shaming them. Use concrete examples. Offer a solution. Be firm, but avoid judgment or criticism.
If you or a loved one is in need of drug or alcohol addiction treatment please give us a call at 800-951-6135.
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