Eating Disorders in Kids: Advice for Parents

If your child develops an eating disorder, you may feel unsure how to help and how to act around them.

Parents arguing with teen girl over foodUnderstanding Your Role

Your son or daughter’s behaviour may suddenly become very different from what you’re used to: withdrawn, touchy and even rude. This can make it very difficult to talk to them at a time when communication is so important.

It can help to remember that they are likely to be defensive because their eating disorder is their way of coping, and therefore they will be reluctant to let go of it, at least at first.

If your child is receiving treatment for their condition, the treatment team will play an essential part in their recovery. But don’t underestimate the importance of your love and support.

Susan Ringwood, chief executive of the charity beat, explains: “Everyone who recovers from an eating disorder tells us how important it was to have unconditional love and support from those who care about them, even when they knew their behaviour was quite difficult to understand.”

Speak to one of the health professionals in your child’s treatment team about your role as parent and carer, and get their advice on what you can do at home to help. The following tips may also help with communication and dealing with mealtimes.

Tips For Talking

Talking to your child about their condition can be very difficult, especially if they still can’t understand that they have a problem. However, communication is essential to help with recovery, so keep trying.

When you want to talk to them directly about the eating disorder, Susan Ringwood advises that you:

  • Prepare what to say.
  • Don’t blame or judge.
  • Concentrate on how they’re feeling.
  • Stay calm.
  • Have resources to refer to.
  • Be prepared for a negative response.

It can also help to:

  • Learn as much as possible about eating disorders. It helps you understand what you’re dealing with.
  • Emphasise that no matter what, you love them and will always be there for them.
  • Avoid talking about their appearance, even if it is meant as a compliment. Try to build their confidence in other ways, for example by praising them for being thoughtful or congratulating them on an achievement at school.
  • Avoid talking about other people’s diets or weight problems.
  • Talk to them about the range of professional help available, and say that you’ll support them through it when they’re ready.
  • Talk positively about activities they could be involved in that don’t involve food, such as hobbies and days out with friends.
  • Try not to feel hurt if they don’t open up to you straight away, and don’t resent them for being secretive. This is due to their illness, not their relationship with you.
  • Ask them what you can do to help.
  • Try to be honest about your own feelings. This will encourage them to do the same.
  • Remember that the feelings behind the eating disorder may be really difficult for them to express. Try to be patient and listen to what they’re trying to say.
  • Be a good role model by eating a balanced diet and taking a healthy amount of exercise.

Tips For Mealtimes

  • If they are in treatment, ask their treatment team about the most appropriate way to arrange your mealtimes.
  • Consider going shopping together and agreeing on meals that are acceptable to you both.
  • An agreement with the whole family about what and when meals will be can help to set everybody’s expectations.
  • Agree that none of you will talk about portion sizes, calories or the fat content of the meal.
  • Avoid eating low-calorie or diet foods in front of them or having them in the house.
  • Try to keep the atmosphere light-hearted and positive throughout the meal, even if you don’t feel that way on the inside.
  • If they attempt to get too involved in cooking the meal as a way of controlling it, gently ask them to set the table or wash up instead.
  • Try not to focus too much on them during mealtimes. Enjoy your own meal and try to make conversation.
  • A family activity after the meal, such as a game or watching TV, can help to distract them from wanting to purge themselves or over-exercise.
  • Don’t despair if a meal goes badly, just move on.

Help and Support

If you need further support, there are a number or organisations that can help you. It is important that the whole family understands the situation and gets support. See your GP (family doctor*) as soon as possible. Your GP and your child’s treatment team will then be able to offer advice. Alternatively, you can call the beat helpline on 0845 634 1414 (in the UK*) to speak to an advisor about any issue related to coping with eating disorders, including how to find local self-help and support groups.

Carers Direct provides a wealth of information on caring, including day-to-day living, claiming benefits and advice on combining caring with work or study (see US resources below**).

Editor’s Note: * clarification provided for our U.S. audience.

** In the US, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has an excellent Parent’s Toolkit with information on eating disorders, supporting your child, getting treatment and navigating insurance issues.


Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 03-09-2015 to 03-15-2015

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 10 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Car seat a big factor in survival of baby found alive nearly 14 hours after crash.
note: baby was in the proper car seat for her age and the seat was properly attached!

Warning Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied …And What To Do

REALITY CHECK: Research finds that 49 percent of kids say they’ve been bullied at least once or twice during the school term, but only 32 percent of their parents believed them.

One study found that one out of every four children will be bullied by another one boy hitting anotheryouth in school this month. If your child is bullied, it means that peers are intentionally causing him pain. Reports also confirm that bullying is starting at younger ages and is more frequent, intense, and more aggressive that ever.

I have worked in hundreds of schools to reduce bullying. My proposal to stop school violence was passed into California law in 2005 (SB1667). We know that bullying can not only be reduced but also prevented. We also know that a mere one-time school assembly or lesson on bullying is ineffective. Posters on walls or campaigns to stop bullying, while a first step, do little to turn around aggressive behaviors and eliminate this behavior.

What does work to reduce bullying: Consistent, unwavering commitment by a group of adults to turn aggressive behaviors around, rebuild empathy, and changing a school culture. I’ll address my own 6 R’s to Reduce Bullying, but my purpose today is to help you learn to spot the signs that your child may be bullied.

Do know that if your child is bullied chances are he or she did NOTHING to cause it. The bottom line: bullying behavior must be taken very seriously and in most cases an adult must be there for a victim to advocate for him or her, create a safety plan, offer solace, rebuild self-esteem and teach new habits.

Your first step to helping your son or daughter is to know the warning signs that your child may be bullied and needs your support. If your child complains of being taunted, picked on, or threatened by a peer, please take him seriously. Unfortunately, however, chances are that if your child is bullied, he won’t tell you. He may be embarrassed, doesn’t want you to be involved in the situation or feel you won’t take him seriously. So watch for the changes in your child’s typical behavior.

Signs and Symptoms of Bullying (pg. 324 The Big Book of Parenting Solutions)

  • Unexplained physical marks, cuts, bruises and scrapes, or torn clothing
  • Unexplained loss of toys, school supplies, clothing, lunches, or money
  • Afraid to be left alone: doesn’t want to go to school; afraid of riding the school bus; wants you there at dismissal, suddenly clingy
  • Suddenly sullen, withdrawn, evasive; remarks about feeling lonely
  • Marked changed in typical behavior or personality
  • Physical complaints; headaches, stomachaches, frequent visits the school nurse’s office
  • Difficulty sleeping, nightmares, cries self to sleep, bed wetting
  • Begins bullying siblings or younger kids
  • Waits to get home to use the bathroom
  • Ravenous when he comes home (lunch money or lunch may be stolen)
  • Sudden and significant drop in grades; difficulty focusing and concentrating

Your first step is to calmly listen to your kid and gather details. Let your child know you are always available to listen and will be there anytime to help him feel safe. And please do not promise your child you will keep this a secret. Chances are your child will need help from an adult and may not be able to handle the bully on his own.

If you suspect your child is bullied and the measures could affect his physical or emotional well-being, do not wait. Your child’s l safety may be at stake. Also, do not assume this is a phase which will go away. Bullying is almost always a repeated behavior and bullies generally choose their targets and continue to prey.

If the bullying offense is serious in nature, find out WHERE and WHEN the bullying incidents happen. Hint: Bullying usually happens in the same locations, 120 feet away from a building and where adult supervision is least. Tell your child to avoid “hot spot” areas such as bathrooms, the edges of playgrounds, behind stairwells, lockers, and the back of the bus.

Set up an appointment immediately with the teacher, counselor, coach, or principal. Demand to know what they plan to do to keep your child safe. Then monitor, monitor, monitor. If you do not get help, go up the “ladder” and meet with the superintendent, board, or if necessary the school board. In some cases you may need to remove your child from the school.

Bottom line: Bullying is serious and has severe emotional consequences to our children’s self-esteem. We are seeing that in some cases bullying can lead to bullycide (a victim who commits suicide).


************************************************************************************************************Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at

When Should I Start Giving My Baby Solid Foods (Weaning)?

baby first foodYou should start giving your baby solid foods, often called ‘weaning’, when they are around six months old. Health experts agree that this is the best age. Before this, your baby’s digestive system is not developed enough to cope with solid foods.

If you’re breastfeeding, feeding only breast milk up to around six months will give your baby extra protection against infection. Breastfeeding beyond six months alongside solid foods will continue to protect your baby for as long as you carry on.

If you’re bottle feeding, you should give your baby infant formula until around six months and continue it afterwards along with solid foods.

If your baby seems hungrier at any time before six months, give them extra milk feeds.

Babies born early (prematurely) may be ready for solids at different times. Ask your health visitor (or pediatrician or pediatric nurse practitioner*) for advice about what’s best for your baby.

How I know if my baby is ready for solids?

Signs that your baby is ready for solids include:

  1. They can stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady.
  2. They can co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so that they can look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth, all by themselves.
  3. They can swallow food. Babies who aren’t ready will push their food back out, so they get more round their face than they do in their mouths.

Baby food

Your baby’s first solid foods should be smooth, simple foods they can easily digest, such as vegetables, fruit or rice. You could try:

  • mashed or puréed cooked parsnip, potato, yam, sweet potato, apple or pear
  • mashed or puréed rice or baby rice (mix the rice with a bit of your baby’s usual milk)
  • pieces of soft fruit or vegetables that are small enough for your baby to pick up

It can be useful to have a few jars, tins or packets of ready-prepared baby food in the cupboard, but it’s not recommended that you use them all the time.

Read more information, tips and advice about your baby’s first solid foods, including foods to start with and foods to avoid.

Read the answers to more questions about children’s health.

Further information:

* Editors Note: a health visitor is a qualified nurse with extra training in child and family care. Their services are provided as part of the UK Healthy Child Programme. Clarification provided for our US audience.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 03-02-2015 to 03-08-2015

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
iCanHelp Delete Negativity: step by step instructional videos show how to block people that are harassing you on Twitter and Instagram

Teaching Our Children to Avoid Racial Bias and Prejudice

I am white. My husband is white. My son is white. ALL my relatives, both biological and through marriage, are white. And I am appalled by the findings of the Justice Department’s investigation into the racial discrimination in the Ferguson police and court system. As striking as the statistics are on the increased rates of police stops, ticketing and other charges faced by black residents of Ferguson, it was the racial slurs and stereotypes shared by police and court employees – through government email accounts! – that was most shocking. The box below shows the emails published by the DOJ (without names) and listed on NPR’s website.

Ferguson police/court staff emails disclosed by the Department of Justice:

  • A November 2008 email stated that President Barack Obama would not be President for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”
  • A March 2010 email mocked African-Americans through speech and familial stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read: “I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!”
  • An April 2011 email depicted President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee.
  • A May 2011 email stated: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.'”
  • A June 2011 email described a man seeking to obtain “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”
  • An October 2011 email included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.”
  • A December 2011 email included jokes that are based on offensive stereotypes about Muslims

My 12-year old son was really surprised when we discussed this at dinner last night and I said that the least offensive email was the one that said President Obama wouldn’t be in the White House long because black men can’t hold down steady jobs. When we talked about the list he said, “Oooh, that’s racist!” Despite being white, racism is something he’s attuned to because many of his friends at school are Asian – and one of my best friends is black and we are god-parents/brother/dogs for her two little girls.

Avoiding-bias-and-prejudiceThere are many issues that the Ferguson report raises – but one that struck me is how we prevent these types of offensive perspectives and stereotypes being adopted by our children. This is important because we’ve seen that these biases limit the potential of victims, create mental distress and discord in society, and – as we’ve seen – can lead to violence.

What we’ve worked to do is expose our son to diverse people – not maybe for that reason – but because we are also drawn to diverse groups. I’m not friends with an African American woman so my son can experience diversity – but when she has taken him into her home, family and church I’ve been glad that he is experiencing another culture (she describes her environment as another “culture”); another slice of life. The same can be said of having his Chinese classmates over for a sleepover and having the Indian family down the street (who have since moved and we really miss!) over for dinner.

The other thing we’ve done – which I’m particularly glad of having just read an article called “What White Children Need to Know About Race” – is that we’ve spoken about race, discrimination and bias. We had to learn early how to have sensitive conversations about groups versus individuals and not being prejudiced about someone’s membership in a given group….because my mother-in-law is German and my husband is a war history buff – so we had to explain why Omi and all the German relatives are not bad when all the WWII movies here show Germans as the enemy. When talking about countries, dictators, racial groups, whatever – we often talk about the context of people’s lives and its impact on them, their opportunities, and behavior. We’ve also discussed what a stereotype is and why these short-cuts based on generalizations about groups – though often rooted in some truth – are offensive and harmful when applied to individuals. And we’ve tried to bring it back to a person or situation that is familiar…how do you think Miss T would feel? Is that really a fair thing to say about L?

But even with all the emphasis in our family on avoiding all types of prejudice, I’ve realized in thinking about the Ferguson case, that we fall short sometimes – on ethnic, gender, and lifestyle issues. This situation has caused me to think about how we can do an even better job of preventing bias and prejudice from taking hold in our house. Below are a few resources I found to create an inclusive environment – at home, school, or wherever:


Anti-Defamation League

Teaching Tolerance

Children Are Not Colorblind – University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Talking to Our Children About Racism & Diversity – The Leadership Conference