Children should be given authority over their own lives. Too many parents make the decisions for their offspring which only leads to resentment later on. Helicopter parenting, which is when parents excessively hover over their children, is a hot topic in the parenting world. While some level of guidance and support is necessary for children as they grow, too much parental involvement can actually do more harm than good. It can thwart their development into autonomous adults and make them feel incompetent.
However, while children should be given freedom, too much of it could also lead to disastrous consequences. One area where this is particularly relevant is in regard to a child’s eating habits.
Eating disorders are becoming increasingly common in young people. Exposure to social media and the unrealistic beauty standards it perpetuates is thought to be one of the main reasons for the increasing number of children and teens who have an unhealthy relationship with food.
Eating disorders are dangerous because they can cause physical and mental health problems. They also have a high mortality rate.
It is therefore important for parents to be able to spot the signs that their child’s eating habits have become a cause for concern. While some fussiness and pickiness with food are normal, there are red flags that parents should watch out for.
Too Much Focus on Weight
If a child is constantly fretting about their weight, this could be a sign that they are developing an unhealthy relationship with food.
Weight shouldn’t be a measure of health. There are many children who are a healthy weight but who still have eating disorders. Conversely, there are children who are overweight or obese who do not have an eating disorder.
But if a child is too preoccupied with the numbers on the scale, it may be necessary to intervene. This is a sign that they are trying to control their weight in unhealthy ways.
If a child, for example, cuts back on eating because they’ve reached a certain weight, or they only eat specific foods that won’t add any pounds to their frame, this is a cause for concern.
If a child is secretive about their eating habits, this could be a sign that they are engaging in disordered eating behaviors.
Eating in secret could mean a lot of things, some of which may not be caused by an eating disorder. However, it should still be monitored because a child could be consuming unhealthy amounts of food.
While most people associate eating disorders with being too thin, overeating is also a form of disordered eating. If a child is eating excessive amounts of food, especially in secret, parents should look into ways to address the problem. They should seek the help of a mental health professional to determine the root cause of secretive eating.
Refusing to Eat with Others
If a child is refusing to eat with others, this could be another sign that they are engaging in disordered eating behaviors.
This could mean that the child is ashamed of their eating habits or that they feel like they can’t control themselves around food. It could also mean that the child is trying to diet and doesn’t want anyone to see them eating unhealthy foods. Some kids don’t want to eat in front of other people because of anxiety which is also a cause for concern.
If a child is refusing to eat with others, parents should try to get to the root of the problem. This could require seeking professional help.
Eating Too Much or Too Little
Lastly, if a child is eating either too much or too little, this is a sign that something is wrong.
If a child is eating too much, they may be trying to comfort themselves with food. This could be a sign of emotional eating or binge eating disorder.
Conversely, if a child is not eating enough, they may be struggling with anorexia or bulimia.
If a child is exhibiting either of these behaviors, parents should seek professional help. The sooner an eating disorder is diagnosed, the easier it will be to treat. Some children may require intensive outpatient care to control eating disorders.
IOP eating disorder programs provide the necessary level of care to help children and adolescents recover from the condition.
If you’re concerned about your child’s eating habits, it’s important to take action ASAP. While it’s normal for children to be picky when it comes to the food they eat, if it affects their overall health, parents should intervene immediately. If you’re not sure if your child’s eating habits are cause for concern, consult a mental health professional. They can help you determine the root of the problem and provide guidance on how to address it.