04-16-2020 04:53 PM - last edited on 04-17-2020 12:08 PM by Jess1-RO
Ask a Child and Family Professional
Question: "My daughter is not eating and I am concerned she may have an eating disorder. How do I talk about this with her? "
I imagine you might be feeling quite worried right now, even overwhelmed. The idea that your daughter might have an eating disorder might seem like a pretty heavy topic to tackle with her, but before you let your thoughts snowball let’s stop and have a think about what’s happening and how you might approach this with her.
Start by thinking about all the observations you have made that are making you concerned and about any other behaviours that you have noticed. It can be helpful for you to make some of these observations before you have a conversation with her about your worries so that you can build a better picture of what you think is happening for her. It could also be helpful to educate yourself about Eating Disorders. A good place to start is here: https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/
Before you have the conversation think about how you usually talk with your daughter and what success you’ve had in the way you approach conversations in the past. Try to create an environment where she feels safe to talk to you. Not sure how to do that? Here are some pointers:
- Let your daughter know that you love her and that you are always there for her if she wants to talk. Use “I” statements to let her know how you are feeling for example “I’ve been feeling a bit worried about you lately”. Take ownership of your feelings.
- Introduce the topic with her by sharing your observations. For example, “I’ve noticed that you haven’t been eating as much lately? Is there anything you want to talk about?”
- Listen to her without judgement and focus on her emotional state rather than her physical appearance. Try to avoid jumping in to fix her issues, instead use curious and open-ended questions to learn about her world, for example “what’s made you decide to reduce your eating?
- Acknowledge her feelings and point of view, even if you don’t agree with what she is saying, for example, “I can hear that this is really important to you and I want to understand.”
- Support your teen to build positive self-esteem and body image. Think about the language that you use such as being “healthy and fit” rather than “skinny”, and eating “balanced” meals rather than “dieting”. Support your teen to be healthy by talking about what healthy means. This conversation could also provide you with some insight into her thoughts.
- Lastly, be mindful that your daughter might not be ready to have this conversation, even if you are. Give her time to digest what you have said before expecting her to respond. Be respectful as you can’t support her if she isn’t ready to talk to you. Just keep letting her know that you are there for her.
If you think your daughter might need and/or is ready for professional support then make an appointment with your GP to discuss your concerns.
Want to learn more? Check out this video about eating disorders.
Child & Family Professional, The Benevolent Society
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