More young people than ever before are receiving treatment for eating disorders according to the NHS.
If your child has been diagnosed with an eating disorder or if you’re worried they might have an unhealthy relationship with food, it can be difficult to know how to support them. Perhaps you’re nervous about saying the wrong thing or insulting them by asking if they need help. Their eating disorder might also be having an impact on the rest of your family and your own mental health.
Good Thinking, London’s digital mental wellbeing service, has created these tips for parents and carers as well as advice for young people about managing eating disorders. We have also spoken to experts at the eating disorder charity Beat for our podcast and highly recommend visiting the Beat website where you can learn about eating disorders and find more detailed advice about supporting someone else.
8 things you can do to support your child
- Have regular conversations – create a safe space where everyone can speak openly about what is going on and remember to listen to your child rather than feeling you should have all the answers.
- Recognise that no one is to blame for their eating disorder – not them and not you.
- Make use of your support network (friends and, if possible, other families in a similar situation) so you don’t feel as if you’re going through with this on your own.
- Have a discussion with your child about social media and whether it makes them feel uncomfortable about their appearance or what they eat. Encourage them to only use trusted sources to find information about eating disorders and their general health.
- If your child is receiving professional support for their eating disorder, speak to their treatment team regularly and follow their guidance about how you can help them at home.
- As part of their eating disorder, your child might have increased the amount they exercise. Seek advice from specialist organisations, such as Beat, about how to help them challenge these thoughts and structure appropriate exercise into their day.
- Remember to look after yourself. This is a stressful situation for everyone so make sure you take regular breaks and maintain habits that are good for your own mental health.
- If you’d like to speak to a trained advisor, contact the Beat helpline. If you or your child need urgent support, contact your local NHS 24/7 helpline.
Good Thinking resources
- Combined Minds app
- How to manage eating disorders (advice for young people)
- 'Mental health and me' guide
- Self-assessments for anxiety, sleep, depression and stress
- Supporting those with eating disorders (podcast)