When is my Child Ready to get Help?

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For parents who are concerned that their child has an eating disorder, it can be hard to know when they’re ready for treatment or if they even need treatment. At The Emily Program, we have experience working with thousands of clients and families, all at different points in their recovery. From this work, we understand the importance of properly addressing your child if there is a concern about their eating and food behaviors.

How do I know if my child needs help?

Eating disorders are complex and insidious, so it’s often challenging for parents to know what is truly going on. In order to determine if your child is struggling with eating disorder behaviors, we suggest answering these questions.

  1. Does it seem that your child has lost control over how they eat?
  2. Does your child ever make themselves sick because they feel full?
  3. Does your child believe they are fat, even when others don’t?
  4. Does food and negative food thoughts control your child’s life?
  5. Do thoughts about changing their body or weight dominate your child’s life?
  6. Are shared meals difficult because of your child’s behavior or comments about food, eating, or body image?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s likely that your child is experiencing eating disorder symptoms. Additional signs and symptoms of an eating disorder in children include the following.

Weight changes. Any unexplained weight loss or gain.

Compulsivity. New obsessive behaviors such as compulsive exercising, eating, or cleaning.

Personality changes. Personality changes including anxiety, irritability or depression. This also includes friendship changes and isolation.

Preference changes. For example, a new interest in cooking but a lack of interest in eating.

Strange food behaviors. Avoiding food, missing family meals, excuses for not eating, new diets, eating in secret, or hiding food wrappers.

What to do if Your Child is Suffering From an Eating Disorder

Coming to the realization that your child is struggling with disordered eating can be a confusing and hard time, which is why it’s essential to seek support. The first step in getting your child help is talking about it. The more important thing you can do is have a conversation. We suggest expressing care by using “I” statements. “I’m concerned because you no longer want to be a part of family dinner” or “I’m worried because you have been skipping breakfast.” After articulating your concern, it’s important to listen to your child. Let them know you are there to support and help them. If your child denies they are struggling with food, it’s important to talk about that. Why do they feel that way? Is there anything they are concerned with? Are their certain changes to their eating they would be willing to make?

Parents should be aware that they may need to have this conversation several times. It’s important that parents trust their gut and seek support. This may include researching treatment centers, talking to your child’s doctor, or scheduling an eating disorder assessment. At The Emily Program, we offer resources to parents of those suffering from an eating disorder. These include Eating Disorder 101 classes and support groups specifically for parents and friends. Connecting with those around them, being a part of a larger eating disorder community, and sharing stories often brings a sense of peace and understanding to parents.

How to find help

Finding treatment options and support can be a challenging process. If you are unsure of where to start, we suggest contacting your primary care doctor for recommendations or finding an eating disorder specialty center like The Emily Program. At The Emily Program you can start the intake process by calling 1-888-364-5977 or filling out our online form. From there, we will speak to you and your child and set up a treatment plan that fits into your life. We know recovery can be scary, which is why we stick by you every step of the way.

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