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|04-17-2013, 01:38 PM||#21|
Re: How to minimize the possibility of an eating disorder in children
I struggled with this some in my early teen years. My cousin is a "cutter". I have 2 cousins who are alcoholics. I have an in-law relative who is into drugs.
I think eating disorders, like the other problems mentioned above, are caused by a number of different factors, and not just one thing - like body image.
I think things like control issues, how you view FOOD, whether you understand the concept of moderation, opportunities (or a lack thereof) for free self-expression, having someone to talk to that you feel cares for you.... I think all of those things AND body image play in to creating an eating disorder.
My eating disorder was caused by feeling lonely, sad, alienated, feeling like I had no control over my life, no one to talk to, a lack of self confidence... the body image issues were really not even there in the beginning for me.
I am sure some people do get eating disorders SOLELY from body image issues. But I think most cases are caused by the perfect storm of depression, anxiety, loneliness, etc all at once. Some people cut themselves, some people medicate with drugs, some people turn to alcohol ... others might starve themselves or force themselves to vomit. It's like a release of built-up emotions.
To help my girls, I try to be realistic and moderate. I refrain from referring to people based on their body shape. I try my best not to put myself down in front of my kids.
I am also realistic about myself, though. When my daughter asked me why my belly jiggles and isn't flat like hers (I had just had a baby a few days prior!) instead of feeling sad or offended, I just said simply, "That sometimes happens after you have a baby." She asked if it would go away. I said, "It might and it might not. And that is okay. "
When my kids ask why someone is so "big" (they aren't allowed to refer to another person as FAT - ever) I just say that people comes in all sorts of different shapes and sizes...
We have a running dialogue about what food is healthy and what food is not. And when we talk about what is healthy and what is not, it's never in the context of "That will make you fat." It's always "Too much of that is bad for your heart." etc.
We exercise together as a family. We do fun activities, like going for walks, playing T-Ball at the park, playing tag. I think exercising together is a good way to show them how to stay healthy.
But besides all of that, I spend time with my daughters. As much as I can. And I often take time out to spend with them individually. (My daughters are 2 and 6. Obviously the 2 y/o isn't at all yet concerned with her body, but I can see my 6 y/o becoming more aware of her appearance). I compliment my daughters often. I tell them they're smart, funny, they run fast, I like the outfit they picked out, I tell them they are great artists, that their songs are wonderful, that I am proud of them. I give them compliments like that AND I do also compliment their appearance occasionally.
I frequently say things like, "We can work through anything together!" "We can fix this!" "I am here to HELP you! You don't have to do it all by yourself." "If we stick together and stay friends, we can do anything!" "Let's figure out how we can make this better together." "It's okay, you made a mistake, but I am here to help you fix it!" etc. I try to show them that I am here for them, to help them figure things out, to help them feel better, to help them answer life's questions, to help them make tough choices and fix big mistakes... to be their friend. I want my daughters to know I am here for them to talk to.
I think more than anything else, just making myself available to them emotionally - as someone who will listen and support them, someone who will show them unconditional love - will be invaluable at preventing, not just eating disorders, but MANY mental health problems.