A new study from the UK reports that children under the age of thirteen have been developing eating disorders, even as young as six years old. To be specific 208 cases of eating disorders have been indentified in children between the ages of five and thirteen through monitoring data, with more than four in five cases being girls.
Adolescent psychiatrist Dr Dasha Nicholls, at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said that there were tremendous developmental variations between children, adolescents and adults. Dr Dasha Nicholls also said that it is unfortunate that many eating disorder services are aimed solely at adolescents since young kids are struggling with the same issue, and their parents don’t know where to turn to.
An eating disorder is not passed on to you by your parents. However, the environment created in the home can encourage some children to adapt to unhealthy behaviors and attitudes about body image and food. Those types of behaviors can turn into cases of bulimia and anorexia. Children, teenagers, and adults can all develop eating disorders at different times in their lives.
Many things go into creating a healthy environment for children. It is a bad idea for parents to focus so much on setting body image goals for their kids (for example saying skinny is good and fat is bad). Another way parents can put the wrong message out there is not talking to their kids about all the toxic ideas put out by media in regards to “the perfect body image.” Ignoring things this that can lead to children believing in what they hear on T.V or read in magazines is normal. Parents need to educate their kids, and make sure they understand that there is no such thing as a “perfect body.” Focusing on appearance is not the healthiest way to teach your children how to live in the world. There are far more important things like talking about how they feel, what they do, instead of always making sure they look perfect. There is no such thing as perfection.
Exercising for the wrong reasons is another thing parents should be aware of. Exercise is all about enjoying yourself and feeling fit and strong. So if a parent spends 5 hours on a treadmill to burn calories and kids see this they may get the wrong message on the importance of working out.
Putting your child on a diet is not the way to go even if they are overweight. The parent should first consult with a nutritionist and a pediatrician on how to go about that. Children are pretty smart and know what is going on around them so if they see that they are being put on a diet their self-esteem can be hurt. Building self-esteem at a young age is so important and no child should be put down by their parents. Self-esteem issues can lead to an eating disorders and drug abuse.
If you notice your child having issues with food early intervention is typically a good idea. If left untreated children may develop a life threatening eating disorder.