How to Talk to Your Child about Eating Disorders
We often get asked the question, how do I approach my child, family member or loved one about my concerns regarding their Eating Disorder. We thought we would give some helpful tips in intervening with your loved ones, as well as some tips on how to get treatment.
- If you are worried about your child or family members eating behaviors or attitudes, it is important to express your concerns in a loving and supportive way.
- It is also necessary to discuss your worries early on, rather than waiting until they have endured many of the damaging physical and emotional effects of eating disorders.
- In a private and relaxed setting, talk to your loves one in a calm and caring way about the specific things you have seen or felt that have caused you to worry.
- Set a time to talk. Set aside a time for a private, respectful meeting with your loved one to discuss your concerns openly and honestly in a caring, supportive way. Make sure you will be some place away from other distractions.
- Communicate your concerns. Share your memories of specific times when you felt concerned about your the person’s eating or exercise behaviors. Explain that you think these things may indicate that there could be a problem that needs professional attention.
- Ask your loved one to explore these concerns with a counselor, doctor, nutritionist, or other health professional who is knowledgeable about eating issues. If you feel comfortable doing so, offer to help your friend make an appointment or accompany your friend on their first visit. It may be important to research treatment options in your area prior to discussing with your loved one. We have provided a list of resources below for this purpose.
- Avoid conflicts or a battle of the wills with your loved one. If they refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem, or any reason for you to be concerned, restate your feelings and the reasons for them and leave yourself open and available as a supportive listener.
- Avoid placing shame, blame, or guilt on your loved one regarding their actions or attitudes. Do not use accusatory “you” statements like, “You just need to eat.” Or, “You are acting irresponsibly.” Instead, use “I” statements. For example: “I’m concerned about you because you refuse to eat breakfast or lunch.” Or, “It makes me afraid to hear you vomiting.”
- Avoid giving simple solutions. For example, “If you’d just stop, then everything would be fine!”
- Express your continued support. Remind your loved one that you care and want them to be healthy and happy.
- Most individuals with an Eating Disorder are successfully treated on an Outpatient basis. This means they begin seeing an outpatient therapist or psychologist that specializes in eating disorder, a dietitian, and a psychiatrist.
- Having a full treatment team of a therapist, dietitian, and psychiatrist is the best outpatient option for someone with an eating disorder. Simply taking medication alone is not a long term solution.
- Many people who suffer with Eating Disorders also have a co-occurring disorder such as Anxiety, Depression, untreated trauma, or co-occurring addiction. Getting help that addresses all of these co-occurring issues is essential to the recovery process.
- For those that have more severity of symptoms or medical complications treatment options such as Intensive Outpatient Programs, Partial Hospitalization Programs, or Residential Treatment may be necessary.
- The important thing to remember is that Eating Disorder recovery is a long journey and it is not about the food or body. It is about underlying needs that are not being met and must be addressed in therapy.
- For treatment resources in your area we encourage you to call your insurance company or look at the following websites:
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