As with many factors of your child’s life, their eating habits are prone to change. Their appetites may shrink and grow, adjusting suddenly, along with their tastes and preferences too. There are many reasons why such a shift in appetite may occur and, while sometimes it can be a harmless or temporary attitude, dietary changes can also appear in response to shock, stress, and anxiety.
If you begin to feel that your child is developing an unhealthy relationship with their food, it might be indicative of mental ill-health and it is best to be conscientious of potential causes.
Your child may be experiencing mental or physical difficulty outside of the home, which is causing them to alter their diet. If a child is teased or bullied about their body then they may begin to change their eating habits to lose or gain weight.
- Social media
Trendy or viral diets can influence a child’s eating choices. While these are sometimes harmless, or even beneficial for health, they should be scrutinised to ensure your child is safe. More significantly, social media can also have extremely adverse effects on a child’s body image. It contributes to a growing level of dissatisfaction that young women have about their bodies, with 53% of 13-year-old American girls being unhappy with their body, a figure that increases to 78% by the age of 17.
This can manifest as over or undereating in response to events within a child’s life, turning food into a coping strategy. Pressure from school, especially exams, is a common source of anxiety, exacerbated by harmful phrases like you just need to buckle down and concentrate.
Supporting Your Child
Talking to children and teenagers can be difficult. There can be times when both parties feel as if they know more than the other. It is important to have patience and understanding, allowing your child to discuss their issues without judgement. Show them respect by appreciating the challenges they face, such as growing up in a social media environment. If they do not feel like you understand, they are likely to feel isolated.
While it is not possible to prevent or filter what your child is exposed to outside of the home or online, you can set a healthy and positive example to them. Encourage positivity in their life and guide their decisions without dictating them. Make an effort to understand how they present themselves online and who they socialise with at school. Having a stable and trusted adult in a child’s life is of significant support for their mental wellbeing.
It can also be difficult to accurately judge your child’s diet too and, in some cases, children and teenagers will deny or conceal their actions, embarrassed by or fearful of the consequences. If this is the case or you feel that their diet might be affecting them severely, it is important to consider and seek professional advice.
A GP may be able to make an initial assessment of your child’s health, as well as advise and recommend a specialist. In other cases, however, therapy or counselling might be a necessary course to recovery.
If you are looking for a counsellor in Bristol to support you whilst supporting your child, please call 07751271709 to book an initial consultation.
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