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Parents are Key in Preventing an Eating Disorder

Aug 18, 2007
What can you do if you are the parent of a child with an eating disorder? Eating disorders are complex conditions that can be difficult to treat. In many cases, an eating disorder will develop slowly over time, with symptoms progressively becoming more severe.

Many times, the compulsive nature of the eating disorder will become obvious at the most early stages of the condition. It is during these early stages that intervention may be most possible.

Parents play a key role in preventing eating disorders in their children. As a parent, you are the most important role model for your children. Here are six ways that you can help prevent an eating disorder from developing in your family.

1. Be positive about your own body. Avoid making negative statements about your how you look. Children learn from you, and may begin to mirror your own dissatisfaction. Be aware that if you demonstrate preoccupation or excessive concern about your weight and physical appearance, your children may begin to mirror this behavior. Even if you cannot conquer your own weight obsession, try not to pass it on to your children.

2. If your child expresses concern about his or her weight, remind him that people come in all shapes and sizes. Remind him that physical appearance is not the most important thing about their identity, and that beauty is not necessarily defined by how thin they are.

3. Avoid the idea of 'being perfect.' Studies have shown that individuals who consider themselves perfectionists are more prone to developing an eating disorder. With this in mind, parents should not exert too much pressure on their children to be 'perfect'. While all parents should encourage their children to excel in many areas of life, they should refrain from pressuring their children into the role of sports star or student achiever. Parents should refrain from reigning in their own instinct to be a perfectionist; they can convey perfection anxieties in an unconscious manner to their own children.

4. Model healthy behavior for your children. Children absorb so much of what you say and do, even when you think they are not paying attention. Modeling healthy behavior means preparing healthy meals and getting some form of regular exercise. Teach your children to eat diverse kinds of foods, and to eat in moderation. Don't make them feel guilty for eating certain foods. Also, teach them that exercise need not be a chore, but can be something that is fun.

5. Be informed about the messages your children are receiving from peers, TV, movies, fashion magazines, and other influences in their life. Find out how your children are interpreting messages from their friends and the media. Discuss these messages with them. Many children and young adults receive their idea about beauty from media messages and peers. If this is the case, talk to your children about the unrealistic standards that these messages seem to convey, and work to counteract these messages.
About the Author
Scott Meyers is a staff writer for Its Entirely Natural, a resource for helping you achieve a naturally healthy body, mind, and spirit. You may contact our writers through the web site. Follow this link for more information on Eating Disorders.
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