Information for Parents: How to Deal with Your Teen’s Eating Disorder (Part II)

In this two part blog series, Sage Day School provides parents with information about teen eating and body image disorders. In Part I we reviewed information about how teens develop eating disorders, common misconceptions, and types of eating and body disorders. In Part II we will review common symptoms and what parents should do if they suspect their teen has an eating disorder.

Signs/Symptoms of Eating Disorders in Teens

Parents should be aware of the following signs/symptoms, as they could indicate their teen has an eating and/or body image disorder.

  • Making excuses for not eating
  • Eating smaller portions
  • Hiding food in their room
  • Saying they are “fat”
  • Exercising excessively
  • Going to the bathroom after eating
  • Missed menstrual cycles (females)
  • Complaining of stomach cramps/aches
  • Wearing baggy clothing to hide weight loss
  • Isolating themselves from their friends and social activities
  • Mood swings, angry outbursts, crying, depression, and other unexpected emotional behaviors
  • Discoloration of the teeth and yellowish looking skin
  • Increase in cavities
  • Flu-like symptoms without a fever
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors

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What Parents Can Do to Help Teens with Eating/Body Image Disorders

If you suspect your teen has an eating/body image disorder, you should seek professional assistance and help from a qualified therapeutic high school and counselor. In addition, you should attempt to talk to your teen about the problem with these useful tips:

  • Inform your teen of your concerns. Let your teen know you suspect they might have a problem, but remember to use “I” statements to avoid making your teen feel like you are blaming them.
  • Do not force your teen to eat, or withhold food. Remember, your teen is using food to combat stress, anxiety, pain, and other emotions. If you place restrictions on their food, it can make the problem worse.
  • Review their Internet usage on their devices. Teens will seek out information online for ways to hide their eating/body image disorder from their parents. There are also specific sites that promote and encourage these disorders in teens.
  • Listen to what your teen does tell you. Look for hidden messages in how they respond when talking to you. Teens tend to downplay problems and will tell parents everything is “okay,” even when they are not.
  • Share your own body image concerns with your teen. When teens realize their parents also have body image concerns, they do not feel as isolated and may start to open up.
  • Do not give in to your teen’s promise they will stop. Eating and body image disorders require professional help to be properly treated. Remain firm and get the help your teen needs, because, in all likelihood, they are only going to take steps to better hide their disorder from you.
  • Find positive outlets for your teen to manage unpleasant feelings. From alternative schools for teens to afterschool social, athletic, and intellectual activities, there are positive ways for your teen to get the support and encouragement they require from their peers.

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Keep in mind, most teens tend to initially respond in either a defensive or angry manner the first time they are confronted by their parents. The reason for this type of response is because your teen feels you do not understand what they are going through, and you are only going to make things worse for them, in the eyes of their peers.

Getting through to your teen and being able to talk to them can take several attempts. If all else fails, and they continue to refuse to discuss the matter with you, do not hesitate to get them professional help. If you are looking for a supportive, caring, and encouraging environment for your teen, call Sage Day School at 877.887.8817 today to learn more about our alternative and therapeutic high school for teens.

Sources:

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/eating-disorders/helping-someone-with-an-eating-disorder.htm

http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/eatdis.htm

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