But, try to keep on reminding yourself and people around you and your family that there are so many things you can do to help your child recover and regain control of their life.
An eating disorder may seem to be about food and weight control, but experts say that instead it is a device people use to cope with depression and anxiety and to avoid other problems in their lives.
Does my child have an eating disorder?
You are likely to be the first to notice that something is wrong with your child although it may be hard to pin down the cause.
Signs that your child may have an eating disorder include:
- Avoiding certain foods/drinks
- Drastic weight loss or weight gain
- Constantly talking about they weight even though they are thin.
- Obsessive calorie counting
- Lack of energy, fatigue
- Avoid family meals and social events
- Bathroom visits after meals
- Eating in secret
- Exercising excessively
- Taking laxatives or diet pills
What should I do if my child has an eating disorder?
A child with an eating disorder needs a safe and supportive therapeutic environment to explore underlying psychological and behavioral issues. This is where skilled and experienced professionals can make a real difference.
Although the treatment requires professional help, family members can play an important part in the process. The first thing that you should do is to face the problem in a loving and non-judgmental way. Eating problems do not go away by themselves.
Keep monitoring your child’s health and nutrition with the professionals, offering simple and nutritious meals which your family can prepare and eat together. Seek a family treatment to help support your child and to resolve underlying emotional issues.
The aim of the treatment includes preventing further complications or even death, by restoring nutrition. Getting your child to eat sufficiently is a main aspect of treatment. A diet high in proteins, carbohydrates and fats is used and is best supervised by dietitians. The most important thing is for them to accept and adapt to the new and over-whelming healthy life routine.
If food is refused, balanced food substitutes are used. But this is generally avoided because the key goal is to get your child to eat normal foods again. So, it is essential to get advices from nutrition professionals and try to follow the guidelines that fit your child and family.
How to prevent my child from eating disorders?
Play the right role in your child’s development of healthy attitudes about food and nutrition. Your own body image can influence your child. If you are struggling with your exercise, yo-yo dieting, and expressing your thoughts that you are fat, your child will have a distorted impression on body image too.
Emphasise health, rather than weight issues especially when you are educating them about obesity. Don’t give them a wrong idea about healthy eating, and make sure they know you love them for who they are, not how they look.
Guide your child on how to differentiate and identify positive and negative role models especially when it comes to appreciating attractiveness in celebrities. Ensure that your child knows he/she is great as they are and the importance of a healthy body.
Try to avoid power struggles regarding food. For example, don’t judge kids for their thoughts on vegetarian diet. Take a positive and supportive approach, as there are many ways to make a meal healthy. Some kids go through trendy eating periods, so try to set limits, and avoid fighting over food issues.
Create a healthy lifestyle for your family and avoid unnecessary emotional stress. Involve your kids in meal preparation for a hands-on lesson on healthy food. Nurture the good eating habits from the very beginning. Also, make exercise a fun, rewarding and regular family activity.
Above all, as parents, you should develop your very own healthy attitudes about food and exercise to lead your child in the right path and direction.
- Australia treatment guide for consumers and carers: Anorexia nervosa, June 2005. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.