Understanding Your Young Child With An Eating Disorder

resources young child eating disorder

Resources and guidelines for parents who have a young child with an eating disorder

If you have a young child with an eating disorder, you’re probably desperate for resources and information to help you navigate this difficult situation. The good news is that we’ve got the resources you need to figure things out and start helping your young child recover from their eating disorder.

While most people assume that an eating disorder starts during the teenage years, many eating disorders start earlier. This is particularly true if your child has ARFID, which can start as “picky eating” and escalate gradually over time. Young kids can tumble into an eating disorder following an illness, particularly if vomiting is involved – they may become scared of vomiting again. And, unfortunately, young kids can be bullied and teased for their weight, which can result in eating disorder behaviors.

Whatever your child’s symptoms, we can help you understand them and start to take meaningful action to help them recover. Eating disorders don’t have to be a life sentence – people can and do recover.

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Common symptoms of an eating disorder in children

  • A sudden interest in calories, ingredients, fat content, carbs, and other nutritional data
  • A shrinking list of things they will eat
  • Worrying about “getting fat”
  • Showing fear when eating or thinking about eating
  • Eating too fast or too slow
  • Secret eating or lying about eating
Eating disorders in children: symptoms, evaluations & treatments

People who can evaluate and treat an eating disorder include: 

  • Medical doctor
  • Registered dietitian
  • Psychotherapist 
  • Psychiatrist

Look for a professional who has received formal training in eating disorder diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, few professionals are experienced in recognizing eating disorders like ARFID, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, particularly in young children.

Childhood eating disorders: rates, risks, and treatment

If your child has been diagnosed with an eating disorder

  1. Get treatment started as soon as possible
  2. Learn about eating disorders and get support in building a pro-recovery household. Eating disorders are highly reactive to the family environment, so little changes make a big difference.
  3. Increase emotional validation. A child facing a mental health crisis needs your support, acceptance, and understanding.
  4. Have clear and consistent boundaries. Your child needs to know that you are strong enough to hold boundaries even when they are in distress. Also, you need boundaries for the sake of your own mental health.

Childhood eating disorders: rates, risks, and treatment

Find out your child’s risk factors and learn more about your child’s eating disorder diagnosis and treatment.

My child is too young to have an eating disorder

My child is too young to have an eating disorder

It’s heartbreaking, but very young kids can and do develop eating disorders. Find out the symptoms, contributing factors, treatment options, and the three things you can do right away to make a difference.

< More About Parenting With Eating Disorders

free cheat sheet: Parenting A Child With An Eating Disorder

⭐ Get ready for recovery and find out how you can prepare yourself for maximum success.

⭐ Find out the essential steps and family rules you need to have in place for recovery.

⭐ Make your home recovery-ready with six simple steps that anyone can do.

More Resources for Your Young Child With An Eating Disorder

Childhood eating disorders: rates, risks, and treatment

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How to talk about body image with kids

Sadly, negative body image is increasingly common in kids, and at younger ages, so we need to talk about it. We live in a body-conscious society that is cruel to bodies, especially if they don’t fit a rigid belief about…

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My story: perfectionism and eating disorders

In this personal story written by Emily Formea we learn about the link between perfectionism and eating disorders. She has some wonderful advice for parents facing similar challenges. I struggled with an eating disorder for 10 years of my life!…

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Parent Scripts For Eating Disorder Recovery

Use these scripts:

  • At the dinner table when behavior is getting out of control
  • When you need to set boundaries – fast!
  • After something happened so you can calmly review the triggers and events