Many teens, both male and female, struggle with their body image. They may feel ugly, fat or awkward. This struggle can lead to eating disorders. One of the more notable eating disorders is anorexia.
Anorexia is an eating disorder whereby a teen literally starves themselves to death. It’s estimated that in the US two out of every hundred teens struggles with anorexia o r bulimia. The good news is that there is a lot a parent can do to help.
A study released last year found that therapy that involved the parents as well as the anorexic teen were significantly more successful than therapy that focused on the teen alone.
As a parent there are some critical steps to take to help your anorexic teen. The first step is to be aware of your child’s eating habits, behavior and health. There are very real signs and indicators that a child is anorexic. They include but are not limited to:
* Excessive weight loss
* Excessive exercising
* Food or eating rituals
* Digestive problems
* Mood swings
* Lack of motivation or energy
* Falling grades
* Chronic illness
* Irregular menstruation or cease in menstruation
* Change in clothing – wearing thick, heavy clothing to hide weight loss (and to keep warm)
If you suspect your child has an eating disorder it’s important to speak with them and to seek help immediately. Steer clear of “You” conversations. Instead, use “I”. For example, “I am worried about your recent weight loss.” This will help ensure your child doesn’t feel attacked or judged.
Once your child has been diagnosed as anorexic it’s important to help them maintain a positive self image. Support them to eat healthy foods and to care for and love their body. Many children develop anorexia because of an anxiety disorder. It’s important to help your child learn to manage and eliminate stress and anxiety from their lives. In addition to teaching them coping techniques, under the advice of a professional, also make sure you’re a positive role model.
It’s also theorized that the media may play a very significant role in the body image of teens. Consider restricting media access, particularly to television programs, commercials and magazines that support an unhealthy body image. Offer your child realistic role models to help them develop a healthy body image.
Treating anorexia can be a lengthy process. Often there are psychological behaviors and reasons behind the disease. These must be treated along with helping the teen regain a healthy weight. Support, love, and patience are required. If you believe your teen is dealing with anorexia, please get them help immediately. Their life may depend on it.