Does your child have an eating disorder?

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The eating habits of children vary widely from the pickiest of eaters to the devourers of buffet lunches. While parents often give their children the freedom of choosing their own eating habits, studies have shown that eating disorders are on a rise in young kids. Take the steps to identify potential problems early and help your kid eat normally.

A study in 2010 by the American Association of Pediatrics recorded that between 1999 and 2006, hospitalisations for eating disorders in children aged 12 and below rose by 119%. Another study by Guardian showed that more than two and a half times as many children under 10 had anorexia nervosa as previously thought.

We’ve all seen the MTV videos, the Hollywood movies and the supermodels. It seems that outward appearance has become a vital concern in today’s culture. With more and more of the younger generation exposed to the mainstream media, perhaps this is why children of surprisingly young ages develop eating disorders.

In light of these developments, parents do have the right to be concerned if their children fall into the danger of improper eating habits.

Identifiying the disorder

The two main types of eating disorders are Bulimia and Anorexia. Here are some key indicators that your child may be suffering from either:

  1. Huge weight loss
  2. Frequently appearing not to be hungry
  3. Withdrawal from social activities such as dinner parties
  4. Making excuses to go to the bathroom immediately after meals
  5. Eating huge amounts of food without weight gain

Dealing with the disorder

Children at a young age are impressionable people with fragile characters. Parents should take careful steps to help their children back to their normal diet.

1.       Talk openly about your feelings on body image and health

Children with these disorders have a skewed perception on how they should look and feel. At times, they are merely trying to follow their celebrity idols. Parents should be open and talk to their children about how they do not need to lose massive amounts of weight to be liked.

2.       Help your child manage stress

Pay close attention to the attitude of your child. Experts advise parents to reduce complexities in their child’s life to prevent anxiety and stress, which may lead to disordered eating in children.

3.       Look to the friends

Children are often influenced by their friends. Take a closer inspection of the kids your son or daughter hangs around with. Children can do whatever it takes to gain acceptance or to ‘fit in’ with a certain group.

4.       Maintain an open relationship

Interaction is the key to unlock children in a state of isolation or depression. By maintaining open lines of communication, your child will feel more assured and comfortable. This will stop any transition from negative beliefs and attitudes into eating disorders.

5.       Raise self esteem

Children who undergo anorexia and bulimia have low self-worth and believe they should look better than they are. Parents should work to ensure their children maintain healthy levels of confidence and self-belief by complimenting them every now and then. Focus not on the outer appearance but praise them when they show signs of good character.