Eating disorders are a prolific problem that many people associate with teenagers and young adults. However, it is also a rising issue among children and pre-adolescents. So much so in fact that the number of kids with eating disorders has spiked by over 60% since 2020. From 24.5 cases, hospitals now see over 40 patients with anorexia (one of the most common eating disorders). Bulimia and binge eating are also some of the frequent diagnoses for kids suffering from eating disorders.
It is best to address the problem as early as now to ensure that your kids grow up to have a healthy relationship with food. This will not only prevent disordered eating, but encourage them to have a healthy diet that can promote better mental health.
These are just a few tips parents and guardians can use to help their kids have a good relationship with food:
Avoid restrictive eating
Restrictive eating (also known as calorie counting) can make kids feel like they need to focus on quantity rather than quality, leading to more cases of binge or guilt eating. Many parents encourage this harmful diet if they believe their children are overweight, but there are healthier ways to create a weight loss plan. If you want your child to focus more on eating healthier without going overboard, use a program that assigns points to certain kinds of food rather than focusing on each food’s caloric value.
A nutrition-focused considers complex components found in food such as proteins, sugars, fibers, and fats. It ensures that your child can eat whatever they want but in moderation. You can create your nutrition-based diet plan by doing extensive research on what foods can be paired together based on their nutritional value, allowing your kid to see food as sustenance rather than calories to be wary of.
Don’t use food as a reward or punishment
Some parents give their kids ice cream when they do well in exams. Others refuse to give their kids food when they act out of line. As they grow older, this will affect their relationship with food. They will have a skewed valuation for certain foods, leaving them to overeat when they are happy and under eat when they feel they deserve it.
There are many other ways that parents can reward or punish their children. You can praise them to let them know they did a good job. If they are misbehaving, try taking away their toys. The consequences of their actions should always be equal to the gravity of what they did, and a child never deserves to have their food taken away.
Don’t force them to finish their plate
Many parents believe that forcing children to finish their food is important, especially if they’re opposed to eating certain foods like vegetables or fish. However, there are better ways to go about it than letting them leave the dining table until their plate is clean. In fact, force-feeding children may be traumatic and cause psychological damage.
This practice associates hunger with embarrassment, fear, aggression, and guilt, which can make kids have a confusing relationship with food as they grow up. Instead, you can help your child practice intuitive eating by allowing them to have meals when they’re hungry and stopping when they’re full. This allows them to know that eating is a natural process that should never have negative feelings attached to it.
How you approach meal times can make or break a kid’s relationship with food. Be sure not to encourage harmful behaviors by following these tips. Ultimately, prevention is better than treatment when it comes to handling eating disorders.