How to Talk to a Child with an Eating Disorder

If you suspect that your child has an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, it can be difficult to know how to approach the subject in a sensitive, tactful manner. You may be feeling helpless, scared or confused about what to say to your child and how to get them to admit they have a problem. At Teen Rehab, we’ve helped a lot of parents deal with their child’s eating disorder, so we’re sharing our best advice on how you can talk to your daughter or son about your concerns.

Educate Yourself About Eating Disorders

Before you talk to your child about their eating disorder, take some time to learn more about eating disorders and how they affect the mind and body. These articles are a great place to start, as is these articles that break down eating disorders and explain some of the myths that people hold about eating disorders. Most importantly, you need to know that eating disorders are not a phase or an attention seeking ploy, but are actually real illnesses that require medical attention.

Find a Quiet Place to Talk

Talking to Son About Eating Disorder

Image Credit: Adrianna Calvo

Before you approach your child about your concerns, make sure that your child isn’t preoccupied and that you’re in a quiet, private place. Calmly tell your child why you suspect they have an eating disorder (is it because of their eating habits? Their weight?) and let them know that you’re concerned because you love them. Let your child know that you’re not angry at them but just want to help them.

Listen Carefully Without Interruption

Invite your child to respond and listen carefully to what they have to say. Many people with eating disorders feel an immense amount of shame about their illness and this may be the first time your child has spoken about their disorder. When your child speaks, make sure you don’t interrupt them, even if you disagree with what they’re saying, as it’s important for your child to feel heard and listened to. Children with eating disorder often feel afraid, insecure out of control or hopeless.

Know That You May Not Get the Response You Want

Talk to Your Daughter Eating Disorder

Image Credit: Splitshire

If your child reacts in anger, denial or refuses to talk, don’t get frustrated with them as it will only decrease their chances of opening up to you in the future. Tell them you love them and want to help them and then revisit the topic in the near future. Sometimes children need time to process what they want to say and they may be feeling shaken up now that they know someone has found out about their eating disorder.

Take the First Steps to Getting Help Together

If your child admits that they’ve been struggling with an eating disorder, let them know that you’ll support them on the road to recovery and will help them get the help they need. Make them an appointment to see your family doctor, who will be able to recommend treatment options, and look for a counselor or treatment centre that will be able to provide professional support.

If you suspect your son or daughter has an eating disorder, it’s important to talk to them about your concerns as early intervention is key for a successful recovery. If you need support in finding a treatment program for your child, you can always contact us for advice and an understanding ear.

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