Many parents struggle with eating disorders in children. They can have various forms – from overeating to not eating, aversion to different foods and food selectivity. A separate category is anorexia or bulimia, which go beyond typical parental problems and already pose a serious threat to child’s health and life. However, focusing on these common disorders, it is worth considering what the underlying causes are and how they can be managed. What should parents pay attention to? How to behave when a child has an eating disorder? When should you turn to a child psychologist?
The diet of a small child – the beginning of everything
The real challenge is the beginning of expanding your toddler’s diet. It is the moment when the parent has the greatest impact on how the child’s food, flavors and nutritional needs of a child will look in the future. The principle is simple – a child is just as human as an adult. He senses flavors in the same way, he is only less aware of them. Therefore, it can become addicted to sweets, but it doesn’t know what spiced food means. It should also be remembered that contact with sugar from an early age causes that the toddler will demand and need it, hence the frequent complaints of parents that the toddler throws himself on sweets and can not refuse himself. It is worth looking at yourself, your own tastes and needs. Isn’t it so often that reaching for sweets makes it hard to deny them after a while? The same applies to salty snacks. In turn, highly processed food means that natural flavors are underestimated. If the parent remembers that the child’s senses are like a white, unsaved card, he has a great chance that the toddler will be a child eating everything, who will appreciate every taste. A well-maintained diet from an early age reduces the likelihood of any eating disorders and leads to the fact that the toddler does not shun any taste, is open, but also has his own tastes, just like an adult.
Read more: Healthy Eating for Kids
Do not incline, judge or comment
In addition to a properly balanced diet, very important for the parent is to approach the issue of nutrition, both their own and the child’s, in an appropriate way. The child is a keen observer and it is from parents that he should derive the best examples. What can a parent do to minimize the risk of a child’s eating disorder?
- Realize that a child is also a human being. He may like something, he may not like something, he may be hungry even a moment after dinner or he may not feel hungry at all, just as it happens for every adult. It is best to cross out something like “SHOULD” from your consciousness and adopt an attitude that allows all behavior, without losing your vigilance for any irregularities.
- Do not affix labels. Someone who is still called a poor eater – it will be him, because it’s like wishful thinking, imposing behavior, creating a new identity. This works the other way around – if you keep in mind that your toddler eats a lot – he will eat even more, because that’s what is expected of him, paradoxically, and in this he also looks at attention. Better meaning will be expanding the toddler’s awareness of the effects of not eating or overeating, in ways devoid of judgment and criticism, especially with strangers, which disturbs the child’s self-esteem.
- Do not convince your child that he will like something and will certainly not like something, in a word – do not design his food preferences and flavors according to his own. A child is a different organism, different tastes and different needs, and what parents taste does not have to be good for the child, and vice versa. You should allow your child to gain new experiences and not limit him in the search for his own favorite flavors. Consistent refusal to eat fish is not yet a topic for psychologist therapy for a child.
- Let the child eat and not eat, so that the consequences will affect him, let him decide and interpret the body’s needs independently. Of course, a constant rhythm is important, but even adults do not always feel like living it. The child should be assured that he is safe in his decisions and the parent is ready. This does not mean adapting meals to the child, but rather becoming aware of what happens to the body and mind when they are not fed, that it is worth eating when you are hungry, but you cannot go to the store and, above all, that food is both a necessity and pleasure, not a compulsion. Punishing a child for not having dinner or pushing another teaspoon of soup is the best way to treat food as a potential threat, and hence only one step closer to childhood eating disorders.
On the other hand parents should be anxious by such symptoms as child’s reluctance to eat or even disease symptoms related to, e.g. inability to swallow specific consistencies. Of course, we are talking about the repetition of certain phenomena and clear symptoms that deviate from the norm. It can be a sign of disorders that fall under the autism spectrum and certainly requires consultation with a child psychologist.
It is worth remembering that a lot of eating disorders in children really indicate the next stages of development and usually do not require immediate advice from a child psychologist. However, if the parent is worried and his child’s attitude towards food does not seem natural to him, he feels that he has done everything in his power, and yet the situation does not change – it is worth considering meeting a child psychologist, which can help solve problem.