But anorexia and bulimia can strike in middle school. It’s not too early to take preventative steps:
- Encourage your child to take control of things in her life, such as grades and hobbies. If this builds her confidence, she may not look for other things to control, such as food.
- Show your child that you love her no matter what. Don’t expect her or others to be perfect. Instead of criticizing mistakes harshly, discuss how she can learn from them.
- Emphasize effort and fun over winning. Studies suggest that some kids turn to anorexia as a way to “outperform” others.
- Be a role model. Adopt a healthy lifestyle that doesn’t involve chronic dieting. If your child starts dieting, she’s more at risk for an eating disorder.
- Don’t force your child to “clean her plate.” Kids know when they’re full, and their feelings should be respected.
- Promote a good body image. Focus on attractive things about your child, not things she’d like to change. Avoid talking about your own body negatively. Do fun physical activities, such as walking or yoga.
- Look for signs of eating disorders. If your child begins to diet, talk about the risks. Discuss how she may feel pressured to look a certain way that isn’t healthy for her.
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