Welcome back. In part one of this two-part series, we began the discussion about how parents can help prevent their daughters from developing an eating disorder. In this second part, we will offer a few more suggestions for concerned parents.

3. Set a Good Example

By setting the example in regards to healthy eating, weight management, and exercise, you can teach your children healthy ways to reach their goals and create a positive body image. Some things that you can do to set a good example are to never make disparaging comments about the weight, body shape, or food intake of anyone. This includes discussing your discomfort in the way your own jeans are fitting, announcing your disgust about the parenting skills of the chubby kid with the ice cream cone at the park, or discussing the odd shape of the person in front of you at the cash register. All of these things are absorbed by your children and they begin reflecting on their own body perception. Children are always listening, learning, and watching your examples — for better or for worse.

4. Don’t Focus on Food

Every parent knows that children can be difficult to feed and be incredibly picky eaters. It is important not to force your children to eat or bribe them to eat. It is also important to not reward a child with food or use food to soothe or as a distraction from being upset. Food should be treated as nourishment and not to escape emotions, positive or negative. Allowing a child to follow their body’s own signals while encouraging them to eat a wide variety of healthy foods will help instill positive eating practices. If you notice a sudden change in eating habits, you can investigate further. If you are concerned, consult your pediatrician. If you are dieting or restricting your intake, do not announce this to your children and certainly don’t encourage them to do the same thing. If you are fixated on food, your children will pick up on this and begin to wonder if they should change how they eat.

5. Talk With Your Children About Social And Mass Media

Our society is inundated with images of the ideal “perfect,” popular, and beautiful people. Social media is overwhelmed with accounts marketing weight loss supplements, bodybuilding, and modeling as though it is casual real life. This can be very confusing for impressionable young people with a limited world view. It is important to address these topics with your children. Teach them that what is modeled in mass media is not real life and that much of it is very fake. Avoid allowing your young daughter to review fashion magazines and if your daughter makes comments about how she wishes she looked like those women, remind her that those women spend hours in hair and makeup perfecting their look and professional photographers use the most flattering photography tools and that the image is then photoshopped to perfection, so that look is nearly impossible to achieve. Encourage a positive self-image and accept your daughter just the way she is, encouraging her to do the same.  

There is no right or wrong way to raise a child and there is no one thing you can do to prevent the development of an eating disorder. It is important to be aware and intervene as soon as you notice something is off. If you need help addressing your daughter’s weight, eating habits, or a potential eating disorder, contact us at Canopy Cove. We have more than 30 years experiencing helping women overcome their eating disorders and helping families cope. Contact us for more information today.