With Eating Disorders in Children on the Rise, Eating Recovery Center Urges Parents to Practice Prevention at Home
March 30, 2012
Leading Child and Adolescent Eating Disorders Treatment Program Offers 10 Tips to Help Parents Prevent Eating Disorders
Between 1999 and 2006, hospitalizations for eating disorders in children 12 and younger rose 119 percent, according to a 2010 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In an effort to curb the growth of anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS and binge eating disorder in this young patient population, Eating Recovery Center, an international center for eating disorders recovery, urges parents to take preventive measures at home to stop eating disorders before they start.
“While clinicians have yet to identify the absolute keys to preventing eating disorders, we do know that positive parental involvement and heightened awareness can help foster the development of healthy relationships among children, their bodies and food,” explains Ovidio Bermudez, MD, FAAP, FSAHM, FAED, CEDS, medical director of child and adolescent services at Eating Recovery Center.
Eating Recovery Center offers 10 recommendations to help parents practice eating disorders prevention at home:
- Understand your own feelings and attitudes toward body image, body size, weight and health.
- Model healthy attitudes and behaviors toward eating, exercise, body weight and shape and self-acceptance. Children will often mirror their parents’ thoughts and actions surrounding these issues.
- Educate yourself about the complex nature of eating disorders. An informed parent is more aware and more likely to notice early warning signs or concerning behaviors.
- Help your child manage stress. Reduce complexity in your child’s life to prevent or relieve anxiety and fear, which may lead to disordered eating in children who are particularly vulnerable to stress.
- Focus on eating at ease during mealtimes. Promoting the social value of mealtimes strengthens family ties and relationships. Stressful, tense eating situations are counterproductive in efforts to develop healthy patterns around food consumption.
- Maintain open lines of communication. Interaction is the antidote for the isolation and secretiveness that can sometimes allow a child to transition negative beliefs and attitudes into disordered eating behaviors.
- Examine your child’s dieting and exercise habits. From a neurochemical perspective, these are not always benign activities. With the help of a medical professional, explore whether weight loss or increased exercise are healthy choices that support normal growth and development.
- Monitor the beliefs and attitudes of your child’s friends. Children are eager to fit in and will often mimic their friends’ attitudes and behaviors—even those that are negative and potentially destructive.
- Watch your child’s technology use. Websites and social media create a sense of “community” in which your child can learn about and compete at disordered eating behaviors. Studies have shown that both pro-eating disorder and pro-recovery online messages have risks to impressionable young minds.
- Be aware of anxiety and depression, and seek care if your child shows signs of these conditions. The negative self image that is often associated with these conditions can lead to efforts to manage emotional insecurities via dieting and exercise.
“Even if parents are not able to prevent eating disorder-related behaviors in their children, prevention activities – such as being well-informed about eating disorders and recognizing changes in attitude or behaviors that may suggest your child is at risk – are invaluable for enhancing early recognition and timely intervention,” continues Dr. Bermudez.
If your child begins showing symptoms of disordered eating, immediately seek eating disorders support from a qualified professional. Early intervention significantly improves the likelihood of recovery. For more information about Eating Recovery Center’s eating disorders treatment programs for children and adolescents ages 10 through 17, visit here.