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Parenting & Education in Ireland

Raising your Concerns with your Child

If you are worried about your child’s eating behaviours or attitudes, it is important to express your concerns in a loving and supportive way. It is also necessary to discuss your worries as early as possible, rather than waiting until they have suffered some of the damaging physical and emotional effects of eating disorders. In a private and relaxed place, talk to your child in a calm and caring way about the specific things you have noticed or felt that have caused you concern.

While we have set out some tips below on how to approach a conversation the approach and language may differ depending on the age of your child. In particular with a young child it would be appropriate to seek support from your GP at an early stage if you have concerns.

What to Say—Step by Step;

    • Set a time to talk. Make time for a private, respectful chat with your son/daughter to share with them your concerns openly and honestly in a caring and supportive way. Make sure you won’t be interrupted and surrounded by other distractions.

    • Communicate your concerns. Share your memories of specific times when you felt concerned about your child’s eating or exercise behaviours. Explain that you think these things may indicate that there could be a problem that needs professional attention.

    • Communicate that you understand that food, weight and body image issues are only part of the picture and that you understand that there is something else troubling your child.

    • Share your belief that recovery is possible and ask them would they like to explore these concerns with a counsellor, doctor, nutritionist, or other health professional who is knowledgeable about eating issues without having your loved one feel that you are passing the book. Be honest and open about your feelings and that as parents you don’t always have the answers. (It’s a good idea to have informed yourself about eating disorders before you start the conversation and to have some information about resources and support services available).

    • Avoid conflicts or a battle of the wills with your loved one. If they refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem, or any reason for you to be concerned, restate your feelings and the reasons for them and leave yourself open and available as a supportive listener. Don’t take it personally or be discouraged if they dismiss your concerns.

    • Avoid placing shame, blame, or guilt on your loved one regarding their actions or attitudes. Do not use accusatory “you” statements like, “You just need to eat.” Or, “You are acting irresponsibly.” Instead, use “I” statements. For example: “I’m concerned about you because you refuse to eat breakfast or lunch.” Or, “I feel really afraid to hear you vomiting.”

    • Avoid giving simple solutions. For example, “If you’d just stop, then everything will be fine!”

    • Express your continued support. Remind your loved one that you care and want to be there for them no matter what.

    • Always always come from the “I” feel position this is impossible to argue with.

    • As parents seek support for yourself even if your son or daughter continues to refuse help. This will give them permission eventually to seek support. Watching someone you love suffer with this illness is so difficult and you will feel helpless. It is imperative that as Parents you lead by example and mind yourself.

    Article Source:

    Read our follow-on article from Lois Bridges on 'What not to say'