According to the NEDA, over one-half of teenage girls practice unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, vomiting, and/or taking laxatives. While these are scary statistics, recognizing an occasional diet and an eating disorder can make all the difference for your child. Talking with your teen about eating disorders is a great place to start.
Ways to Get the Conversation Going
- Know the facts. Before you start a heavy conversation on eating disorders, it is important to have the right information. There are three main types: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Knowing a bit about each can help you answer your teen’s questions.
- Set a time and place. Tell your child you’d like to speak with them about something important. Plan for a time when you are both free for a few hours, and choose a place that is quiet, private, and free of distractions.
- Begin with an “I” statement. Using “I” statements allows you to communicate clearly about your concerns without blame, which may make your teen defensive and unwilling to talk.
- Listen. Try using questions that are open-ended rather than ones that yield a simple yes or no. Once you bring up your initial concerns, sit back, and listen to what your child has to say. Resist the urge to jump in and make suggestions, judgments, or other commentaries right away.
How to Get Help and Support for Your Teen
If you find that your teen is suffering from an eating disorder, there are some proactive steps that you can take.
- Make a plan. Remind your teen again that they are not alone. As you develop a plan for your child, make sure it is something you can follow through with.
- Seek help. At Avalon Hills, we work to surround women of all ages with people who will care for them, listen to them, laugh with them, and fight for them. Others have healed and your loved one can too!
What Else You Can Do
Beyond talking, there are many other things you can do to help with your teen’s recovery. Here are five ways to offer your teen support:
- Be a good example by eating healthy foods and balanced meals. Tune in to how you talk to yourself and others about food and body image. Keep comments on appearances positive, or focus instead on other traits.
- Eat together as a family when possible. Cooking together is another great way to make food a fun experience. Food should be a source of enjoyment rather than fear.
- Set limits, but don’t be overbearing. Engaging in power struggles over food may lead to more harm than good. Creating conflict about meals may cause dishonesty in the home.
- Foster self-esteem and positive body image whenever you can. Praise what your teen does that has more to do with their successes in school, their talents, etc. Giving people value for more than their looks is a strong message.