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What To Do When Your Child Has an Eating Disorder

As parents, we’re always concerned about our children’s well-being. Even when they’re all grown up, we’re still wondering how they’re doing. And from all my years of being a mother, the two constant questions in my mind are: are my children safe, and are they eating enough?

What if they’re not?

Eating disorders take a massive toll on both your children’s physical and mental health. It clouds their judgment and affects them physically. Especially in this digital age, it’s easy to find a celebrity that idealizes a body that children and teens shouldn’t force on their growing bodies. But due to social media, they feel compelled to imitate them, or they’ll be left out.

Cases of children with eating disorders have been climbing over the past few years. If you think your child is suffering from an eating disorder, remember that preventing eating disorders once symptoms arise increases recovery significantly.

How can I tell if they’re suffering from an eating disorder?

Sometimes, children are hard to feed; they could be picky eaters or not be in the mood to eat at all. So how could we tell if they’re suffering from an eating disorder?

Here are the telltale signs of eating disorders:

  • Refusing to eat any food that they aren’t craving
  • Playing with food and hiding it from you
  • Complaining about feeling nauseous whenever eating a proper meal
  • Frequent change in weight
  • Dull, thinning scalp hair
  • Delayed or interrupted development in puberty
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Obsessive monitoring of weight
  • Discolored teeth

There are five common eating disorders for children: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, pica, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder. Now, all of this sounds like a parent’s nightmare. You may be left with the question; What are my options for treating bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and other eating disorders?

What can I do to help my child now?

food waste

As the adage goes, “Prevention is better than cure.” Eating disorders can be a lifelong battle with your child’s mental and physical health, but they are preventable and curable. When early symptoms of eating disorders surface and you think your child may be suffering from one, you should:

Be calm and check for symptoms.

We know how scary it is to take your child to the hospital. We’re all afraid to hear that we have failed in providing for our child, especially when it comes from a doctor. But parents should realize that they shouldn’t blame themselves for this. Eating disorders are complicated and could stem from several reasons.

Get a notebook and log their eating habits. Keep an eye out for eating disorder symptoms.

Book an appointment as soon as you can.

Treatments for eating disorders are a lot of work and could exhaust both you and your child mentally and physically. Talk to your child’s pediatrician, and ask questions. They’ll be glad to help, and you’ll get all the information you need.

Get up and hug your child.

Yes, we all should hug our children from time to time, but this time it’s different. Children with eating disorders need mental support from their parents more than ever now.

Be concise and caring when talking to your child. Emphasize how it’s not their fault and let them know that you’ll be by their side every step of the treatment. Let them ask questions and answer them as much as you can without scaring them.

The treatment for eating disorders varies per type. Treatments mostly use a combination of psychiatrists, dietitians, physicians, and psychotherapists. The treatment’s primary goal is to fix their eating patterns and return their body weight to what is healthy for their age and height. Other treatments address the patient’s mental health issues, removes eating disorder behaviors, and creates a backup plan if the patient relapses.

The journey you and your child will go through to cure their eating disorder will not be easy. It will take months of progress, but in the end, it will come to fruition. After all, we’d give anything to see our children be happy and healthy.

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Happy Knits is a community of parents sharing their tips for better parenting. We include parents of all ages, walks of life, and backgrounds.

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