Proper education can help families spot signs of eating disorders more quickly and effectively. Early intervention is one of the best ways to prevent and treat an eating disorder in children. Open communication without judgement and a solid, trusting relationship with your child only helps strengthen the chances of recovery.
The first person to speak with is your child’s pediatrician, who will need to further assess your child for an eating disorder. After the pediatrician completes an assessment, it is important to schedule an outpatient therapist evaluation, preferably a therapist specializing with eating disorders, and a nutritionist consultation. Parents need the support and education just as much as the children.
Children and teens may experience intense feelings of guilt and shame around their eating disorder, and any direct negative confrontation may trigger them to shut down. Communicate to your child with objectivity and curiosity, rather than blaming and accusing. If they prefer not to talk about the signs, it is important to stop, give them space, and seek further outside support to be able to explore further.
It is important as parents to seek our own professional help to ease our anxiety and concerns around our children. Talking with an eating disorder specialist who works with families is helpful to start the process.
Ultimately, parents may question their parenting styles and blame themselves for the child’s disorder. As parents, we do the best we can with the tools that we are given. No parent intentionally would ever want their child to struggle with food. Dump your own inner critic, and practice your own self care. Put your oxygen mask on first, otherwise we are no good to our children.
Eating disorders are complicated, life threatening disorders. Seeking outside support is the best way to navigate this journey, as going alone is overwhelming. Just remember, as parents, you are not alone. Help is there, not only your child, but for yourself.