ASK THE KAV L’NOAR THERAPIST
Q: I am concerned about my child’s eating habits, and I think she may have an eating disorder. How can I tell, and at what point should I step in?
One of the most challenging tasks as a parent is finding the right balance between giving our children independence to make their own choices, and, on the other hand, doing our best to ensure our kids remain safe. So you are noticing your child start to focus on dieting, exercise more than she used to, or lose weight in a way that seems unhealthy or unusual. How do you know whether you should you lay back or intervene?
Recent research across various countries and cultures has found that somewhere between 1-6% of women will develop some type of eating disorder, compared to 0.3-2% of men.
Of course, there is no one answer or indicator that an intervention is necessary. Alternatively, it may be best to give your child the latitude to explore different types of experiences. Nevertheless, research provides some information that may be helpful to determine what is the best course of action.
When is an intervention necessary?
Often times (but not always), there are some other noticeable things going on, which may indicate an intervention is necessary. You may be noticing what seems like excessive preoccupation with food or eating; unusual eating habits, such as not eating with others or cutting tiny bites and eating very slowly; wearing bulkier clothes to hide weight-loss; or other types of signs that are associated with eating disorders.
It is worth becoming familiar with some of the risk-factors or signs that there may be a problem. For example, parents can take a look at National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Toolkit for Parents for an in-depth and research-based description of things parents need to know
Finally, if you are concerned, trust your instincts and speak with a medical professional, such as your child’s pediatrician, to share your concerns. Even if your child insists there is nothing to worry about, speaking with a doctor and getting her input can be helpful. The Doctor can put you at ease, or alternatively, help set you up with the support and resources you need to help your child.
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