Integrated Family Community Services 3370 South Irving Street, Englewood, CO 80110-1816 Ph: 303-789-0501

How to Help Children Who Have an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are not as uncommon in children as you might think. Many people develop a complicated relationship with food in response to other problems in their lives. If your child shows symptoms of an eating disorder, take these steps to help them learn healthy lifelong eating habits.

Start with a Diagnosis

There are many reasons why a child might stop eating or switch to eating a specific set of foods. Some kids have unique cravings as they’re getting older, while others stop eating a type of food because they’re simply tired of it.

Recognizing the difference between a childish phase, a preference of taste, and an actual eating disorder often requires the help of a specialist. If you notice that your child’s eating habits seem unhealthy, seek a professional diagnosis before you make any assumptions.

Seek Treatment Options

Treating an eating disorder requires a gentle hand and a thorough knowledge of nutrition. Once you’ve received a diagnosis, look for a professional who can help guide your child to recovery.

Treatment options for eating disorders typically involves creating a meal plan and providing therapy or group support as needed. A professional nutritionist will help your child return to a healthy weight and develop a comfortable relationship with food in the process.

Keep a Healthy Pantry

Make eating easy for your child by keeping a variety of wholesome and delicious snack options available. Prioritize accessibility alongside nutrition by pre-cutting vegetables and cheeses, stocking individual cups of yogurt, and providing cereal bars and healthy baked goods.

Your nutritionist will help you choose foods that taste good and fit your child’s current dietary needs. If your kid doesn’t like something, look for an alternative that provides the same nutrients, and remember that you’ll develop a comfortable balance over time.

Communicate with Your Child

Your child may have the symptoms of an eating disorder now, but that doesn’t mean that they will always suffer from the condition. Your goal should be to make eating a normal part of their life, and that starts with open and respectful communication.

Try to create a dialogue that centers around food and cooking. When you’re planning your grocery trips, ask your child what they’d like to see in the pantry. Invite them to help you make dinner, and encourage plenty of tasting as you cook. This time together will give your kid a chance to tell you how they’re feeling. If you listen, you’ll be able to help more than you realize.

Food-related problems can take a long time to resolve, but they almost always have a good prognosis. As a parent, the most important thing that you can bring to the table is patience. Be there for your child, and let them know that they can count on you as a stable factor in their life.

Tim Esterdahl

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