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A teenager’s ” cry for help” deserves a response

When our children act out with eating disorders, cutting, suicide, etc., we should pay attention, not dismiss the behavior as attention-seeking

When people call a teenager’s dangerous behavior “a cry for help,” they say it as if it is not really serious. It’s just a cry, after all. Or they may say a teen is “just looking for attention.” And the suggestion is that they do not deserve the attention they seek. That the very act of seeking attention is somehow inappropriate.

There is a pervasive idea in our society that our children’s cries when they are babies are signals that we should heed, but that as they age, their cries are something we can brush off as feeble, unnecessary and even annoying attempts for attention. When an infant cries, we respond with care, love, and attention. We give food, cuddles, and warmth. When a teenager cries out by developing dangerous behaviors, we tend to respond with criticism and avoidance.

Teenagers who have eating disorders, suicidality, and substance use may be crying out for love and attention. They may be signaling a distress level that is deeply intense, and they are not aware of any other tools for gaining the love, attention, and affection they need.

If your child is crying out for help and looking for attention, give it to them. Pay attention to the cries. Attend to your child with the support they need.

This is a wonderful video in which Wentworth Miller discusses what it was like for him as a teenager:

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

Ginny Jones is on a mission to change the conversation about eating disorders and empower people to recover.  She’s the founder of, an online resource supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders, and a Parent Coach who helps parents supercharge their kid’s eating disorder recovery.

Ginny has been researching and writing about eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

Ginny’s most recent project is Recovery, a newsletter for deeply feeling people in recovery from diet culture, negative body image, and eating disorders.

See Our Guide For Parenting a Teenager With An Eating Disorder

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