Letting your child make their own decisions as they age is a difficult part of being a parent for some, especially when the decisions they make are harmful to their health. This is especially true for parents with a child who has an eating disorder.
Eating disorders are complicated and can be caused by a number of different factors. It could be because of genetics or from psychological, sociocultural or environmental factors, so parents shouldn’t blame themselves if their child develops an eating disorder. What’s most important is that the parent wants to help their child recover and will be dedicated to doing whatever it takes.
Recognize the signs of an eating disorder
Knowing what an eating disorder looks like is important so that you can identify whether your child is struggling with one or not. It’s more than just rapid weight loss; there are a number of silent signs that children display that you may not notice. Here are some common signs your child has an eating disorder:
- Fear or obsession with gaining or losing weight
- Excessive exercising
- Fluctuations in weight
- Refusal to eat in front of others
- Bathroom visits after eating
- Mood fluctuations or irritability
- Problems with skin, teeth or hair
If you suspect your child is showing signs of disordered eating, there are steps you can take to help them overcome it.
Have open discussions
It’s not uncommon for your child to become easily irritated or withdrawn, so talking to them about their problem, especially if they can’t accept they have one, might be difficult. It’s important to keep trying to establish an open dialogue because it’s essential to their recovery process. They may display feelings of anger, but in reality, it’s actually feelings of insecurity and fear.
Sometimes it is best to include the help of a mental health specialist. This is because they have the tools and communication skills that’ll help them when speaking with someone who has an eating disorder.
Make sure you listen to what they have to say, always remain calm during these conversations, try to avoid making judgments, and try to use sentences that start with “you” rather than with “I.” And remember to keep trying, even if they don’t want to open up right away.
Get them treatment
Professional treatment is an excellent resource for helping your child overcome an eating disorder. A treatment center like Eden Treatment has doctors, nurses, therapists, dieticians, and psychiatrists all standing by to give your child the personalized treatment they need to get healthy. They discuss the treatment plan with you and your child to make sure they’re holding your hands along the way in order to help your child and your family move forward.
Try mealtime tips
Having meals together can be especially tough, but trying some mealtime tips can help make it less stressful for everyone.
Off the bat, make sure the whole family agrees not to discuss the calories, fat content, or the portion sizes of the meal you’re eating. Try not to have low-calorie or diet foods included or in the house where your child can see them. Keep the conversation and atmosphere as light-hearted and positive as you can, even if your child doesn’t feel that way. Your child may also want to be involved in the cooking because they are trying to control the meal, so try and distract them by asking them to set the table or washing their hands.
Take care of yourself
As much as you want to be there constantly for your child and help them as much as you can, you have to remember to take care of yourself too. Find support through your doctor and ask for advice on what you can do and be sure to take time to recharge and take care of your own needs. If you are too stressed out or frazzled to take care of yourself, it makes it more difficult to be there for your child and to show them the importance of self-care.