Parents play as kids’ first role models. This is why your children are likely to copy everything you do. From how you talk to how you dress, they always use their curious eyes and ears to take note of your every move.
Did you know that sometimes, your parenting habits are already putting your kids at risk of developing eating disorders? This is not to say that parents are the sole reason or cause for their children’s eating disorders.
Parenting and Kid’s Disordered Eating
Many parents with children with eating disorders often feel like they are to blame for their kids’ struggles. While it is not a parent’s fault, this is not enough reason to rejoice just yet. Parents are responsible for having a deeper understanding of their children’s disordered eating, so they can learn how to best help them.
It helps to know that eating disorders can be passed from one generation to the next. Sociocultural ideas can also play a huge role in developing eating disorders and other factors. However, parental involvement can influence their kids in many things, even in the most unintentional ways.
This is why parents are encouraged to be hands-on when protecting kids against unhealthy eating and in them recover from eating disorders. It is not enough that you take your kids to a professional, so they can start with a residential treatment program for eating disorders. Your love and support can significantly help in their faster recovery.
Ways you are unintentionally influencing disordered eating in kids
The best way to help kids fight eating disorders is to learn how to avoid taking part in developing their disorder. You can start by avoiding the following parenting mistakes.
Controlling Kids When and What to Eat
Some parents won’t let their kids eat snacks before mealtimes or after dinner. Others would label food items as bad or good, telling children to avoid bad foods. While your intentions may be good, such restrictions may only trigger eating disorders.
Remember that even if kids are still young, their brain is already working hard to tell them when they are hungry. If you control what they eat and when, this can disrupt their physiological set points. You would want them to learn how to adjust but with certain limitations.
Letting Kids Learn About Your Body Issues/Dieting
Many parents, especially mothers, would unintentionally project their insecurities and plans to lose weight. Others would let their kids see them starving themselves for the sake of dieting. They will think that shedding weight is good and weight gain is bad.
It is best not to talk about dieting and model healthy eating. Don’t let them see you being insecure about your weight or appearance. If you are to lose some weight, be sure to do it the healthy way so that they will see you still being committed to eating healthy.
Using Food as Reward or Punishment
If given a chance, kids will be kids and would indulge in sweets, fast food, or other unhealthy food items. It is good news if you can instill good eating habits with your kids. But suppose you use treats as a reward or punishment. In that case, this can interfere with their natural ability to regulate food habits.
It is tempting to give them their favorite food as a reward for doing good things or take their favorites if they do something bad. But then, this can lead to a long-term, less desirable outcome and more unhealthy cravings. What you can do is to offer other rewards, like experiences or objects they like.
Consistently Monitoring Their Weight
Some parents constantly monitor their kid’s weight and comment if they need to eat more or eat less. When you obsess over their weight, they can start feeling pressured to maintain a certain weight. You no longer have a chance to lose or gain the natural weight.
Avoid consistent weight monitoring and adjusting their diet. This is especially true if there is no medical need for them to maintain a certain weight, eat certain types of foods, or how often and how they should be eating. Let them loose and gain weight naturally. After all, they’re kids, and they’ll need all the energy they can to experience the most of life.
Parents have such a significant influence on kids. Everything they do, kids can surely pick up, even the mixed signals you are unaware of sending. This is why you need to be careful in everything you do, especially when you are around them.