Anorexia in Children is becoming more prevalent. There are signs that we as parents can look for to help protect their child and keep them safe!
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Anorexia in Children
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When it comes to food and our kids, most of us focus on avoiding obesity. We make efforts to feed our children healthy stuff and let them know the damage of bad eating choices. We do this with the best of intentions. The reason being, we just want to keep our kids from contributing to those shocking childhood obesity statistics. It makes sense, and it’s all necessary stuff.
But, to focus solely on obesity would be to disregard the real and threatening rise of anorexia in children.
While the news is focusing on a nation who eat too much too young, vast swathes of children are going the opposite way. While difficult to measure precisely, it’s projected that anorexia is the third most common chronic disease among young people. What’s more, these conditions aren’t only found in teens like you may expect. In fact, experts are seeing a worrying amount of cases in children younger than 11. Even some kindergarten cases, like this one at abcnews.go.com, have come to our attention in recent years.
It’s trouble, but perhaps not surprising when you consider our national focus on eating. With our kids continually pushed to ‘eat healthily’, it’s no wonder some are taking this message to extremes. While every teen parent knows to look out for the signs, you might assume your six-year-old wouldn’t fall foul to such worries. But, it’s time to think again. No matter how young your kids, they’re at risk of body-image issues which could lead to serious conditions.
If you’re worried your child may fall into that group, take the following steps to either ease or confirm your worries.
Do Your Research
Anorexia and bulimia are words we’ve all heard. But, few of us actually know much about their causes and symptoms. If you want to protect or help your child in this field, you’ll need to do your research. Head to sites like parentingpod.com where you can find articles outlining the symptoms and risks of both conditions. Here, and on sites like it, you can also find real-life stories which will take understanding further. Regardless of whether you suspect your child has an eating disorder or not, this is a step worth taking. By researching symptoms and signs, you can spot an issue before it spirals out of your control. This simple step can be the difference between a long-term battle for your child, or a short flirtation with body-image issues.
Observe Eating Habits
If you suspect an eating disorder, make sure to observe your child’s eating habits. Before you do this, remember that every child’s appetite is different. If your kid has never eaten an enormous amount, then they obviously have a small appetite. As long as this behavior is normal for them, it shouldn’t cause you any concern. But, if sudden changes become clear to you, it might be a sign that something’s going on. Has your usually hungry child started asking for small portions? Have their normal clean plates been replaced with piles of uneaten food? Or, have they gone the other way? Have the started binging on food in a way they never did before?
Anything out of the ordinary is worth your attention. If you do have fears, it may also be worth asking their teacher to keep an eye on things. School meals are tricky because there’s nothing to stop your child throwing uneaten food in the trash. But, if school teachers keep an eye on things too, you can work together to gain a decent idea of what’s happening with your child’s eating habits. And, that idea can help you decide whether you need to take action.
Listen to How They Speak about their Bodies
Many argue that stick-thin models in the media are partly to blame for a rise in conditions like these. When thin and pretty people surround young children, it’s no surprise that they then see this as the norm. And, girls as young as five can be heard putting their bodies down. Sometimes, this is nothing more than copycat behavior. Your five-year-old may mimic a television character in front of the mirror, inspecting their waist size. But, if your child starts making multiple references to weight or appearance, it’s a sure sign of concern. It’s easy to argue that a child this young shouldn’t yet care about appearance. And, many don’t. But, a shocking number of youngsters are becoming more conscious at a younger age.
So, never disregard the way your child speaks about their body. If you hear a few disparaging remarks, it’s a sure sign that you need to keep a close eye on the situation.
Have a Conversation
If you’re still unsure at this stage, the best thing you can do is talk to your child. Express your concern about anorexia in children. Obviously, kids are impressionable, and you don’t want to put ideas in their heads. As such, you should avoid coming right out with your worries here. Sit your child down and perhaps open a conversation about body image.
Keep things positive, and try to make it clear that bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. By watching your child’s responses, you stand the best chance of getting a straight answer. Even if you decide there’s nothing to worry about, opening this conversation could help down the line. If your child does later start to question their body shape, they’ll feel as though they can come to you about it. Of course, don’t want to dwell on this. Our focus on health and fitness is partly behind this issue in the first place. So, don’t keep this conversation going for longer than necessary. State the facts and then move forward. If you do deem it necessary to take things further, you can then leave the job to a trained professional who knows the best way to approach things. And, that’s the best bet of helping your young child through this horrendous issue.
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Michele is a Family Life Educator with her degree in marriage and family studies. She is a mom to 5 kids and loves helping others strengthen their families! When she is not blogging she is spending time with her family and running around drinking Diet Coke trying to get everything done!