9 Tips To Prevent Eating Disorders In Children
As a parent, you're always worried sick about protecting your child from the evil that lurks outside of home- out in the world. But what are you doing to protect your child from yourself and the decades of social conditioning that you carry?Admittedly, it’s impossible to control the influences of the world (you’d have to literally live under a rock for it), but you can certainly create a safe environment in your home to safeguard your little ones from a childhood tainted by low self-worth, guilt, self-hate, restrictive eating, purging, body dysmorphia, et cetera.
Here are 9 tips to prevent eating disorders in children:
- Be a good example, start with yourself and promote a positive body image. Encourage a healthy self-esteem by showing your children how to appreciate qualities apart from their physical attributes. Give them compliments on how kind or intelligent they are. Avoid focussing on and discussing about physical qualities of your friends, family, and other children.
- Examine your thoughts and actions towards your own body, because if you don’t walk the talk, your children will be quick to spot it. Be kind, when you talk about yourself. If you are constantly in the habit of putting yourself down, then now is time to stop. Give yourself some credit for Christ’s sake!
- Reduce children’s exposure to media when at home. Tell your children how models are made to look “perfect” in pictures through image manipulation tools and other means. Kids must be told the truth about toxic, distorted marketing messages that are often sent out by brands.
4. Reiterate the fact that there is no such thing as a “perfect body”. Every body is unique, beautiful, and worthy of love.
5. Educate your child about the dangers associated with eating disorders. Allow them to understand the importance of a balanced diet and moderate exercise.
6. Do away with labels. Don’t call any food ‘’good’ or ‘’bad’’. Pizza is as good and important as broccoli! The function of every food is to fuel your dreams and ambition, so no food should be discriminated against or given special consideration. Let them learn to know when they are hungry or full.
7. Develop a neutral view about food. Your kids will learn from you. Not even the word “healthy” should be associated too much with food items, because you will end up dismissing others are ‘’unhealthy’’, and such beliefs can be a gateway to conditions like orthorexia.
8. Instil a ritual of honest conversations with your children, where they ask about anything and everything under the sky. There is no one better than you to address their questions in their mind – however embarrassing. Let your house be a safe space for them sans judgements.
9. Be patient and supportive. Listen to your children, for sometimes that is the best thing to do. Formative years can be a confusing time for them and they can really use a sympathetic ear, if nothing. The more comfortable your children are with sharing things with you, the easier it will be for you to catch any early signs of eating disorders or harmful behaviours. Of course, the earlier they are caught, the lesser damage it does to the person.
Lastly, remember- eating disorders are complex conditions that are often caused by a combination of several factors such as anxiety, depression, family history, friend circle, stress, poor body image, et cetera. Therefore, sometimes even the most perfect parenting cannot guarantee absolute immunity from eating disorders for your little ones. So, don’t forget to be kind to yourself.