The Parents' Role in Preventing Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are becoming more common in a society that rewards thinness, punishing teens with unrealistic beauty standards. Under these evil influences, parents can play an essential role.
The Parents' Role in Preventing Eating Disorders

Last update: 04 March, 2021

The origin of many disorders is unknown. Other disorders find their origin among many different characteristics, both internal and external. Eating disorders are part of a cultural context and parents can work on preventing eating disorders in their children.

Eating disorders, such as anorexia or obesity, are specific to their environment. Society influences children and it’s their parents’ role to help prevent eating disorders.

As in many psychological disorders, age plays an important role. For example, in some disorders, there are specific changes happening in the first stage of adulthood.

Other disorders affect part of the population, like anxiety and depression in women. For instance, women suffer more from society’s standards and the belief of one type of beauty.

Women between the ages of 13 and 24 have a higher risk of suffering an eating disorder. In addition, these ages match the time they live with their parents. Is there a way to prevent eating disorders?

Parents talking to their daughter.

The parents’ role in preventing eating disorders

It’s worth noting that eating disorders can have many causes. Some families have characteristics that relate to an eating disorder, but the family isn’t always to blame.

The degree of dysfunction in a family is proportional to developing an eating disorder. Thus, it comes down to two elements: lack of cohesion and low tolerance to the youth’s frustration.

Likewise, having controlling, overprotective, and authoritarian parents can lead children to think they don’t have control over their lives, in a moment where they should have more responsibilities and power over their own lives.

Is a permissive parenting style the answer?

Preventing eating disorders in children isn’t about being permissive or negligent. Lack of affection and supervision from parents relates to lack of self-esteem. Above all, lack of self-esteem is the main characteristic of all eating disorders.

Depending on the type of family, children could develop a specific eating disorder:

  • Bulimia usually develops in conflictive and pathological families. In other words, there’s hostility, nutritional deficits, disengagement, impulsivity, and lack of parental support. Usually, there isn’t marital conflict.
  • Often, restrictive anorexia seems to develop in families with parents that are usually involved in living and marital conflicts.
  • Teenagers with purgative anorexia usually come from families with marital conflicts. The hostility and lack of parental support are low.

Tips for preventing eating disorders

Above all, parents can have a big impact on the beginning and development of an eating disorder in their children. Here are a few tips to help children avoid the development of an eating disorder.

Making fun of your child’s body or physical characteristics

A teenager’s body changes, and they won’t be the only ones to notice. Above all, people around them may start talking about their bodies. Some of these comments can influence them and their self-esteem.

Adults who had an eating disorder remember remarks, such as: “Don’t eat so much because you’ll get fat”, “Pizza face”, or “You look stupid with your hair like that”.

Tools for an uncertain adolescence

Adolescence is a challenging time for teenagers, no matter how well prepared they are. Some think that they’ll feel better controlling what and how they eat. In other words, giving them control over their bodies and food.

It’s important to teach them how to deal with frustration. To not live their teenage years as a confusing state, due to their parents’ lack of support or information.

In conclusion, it’s important to talk about eating disorders, warning signs, and the many types of beauty.

They won’t find a lot of support from friends or a society that’s part of the problem. Above all, you’ll be the one who tells your child that being thin isn’t a synonym of beauty.

Mother talking with daughter as a mean for preventing eating disorders.

Boundaries, as necessary and difficult to manage as they are

Permissiveness gives place to parents that don’t know how to establish rules. Thus, talking about boundaries in a loving way from the start and the differences between what you want for your child and what they want is a protective factor against any eating disorder.

Parents can prevent eating disorders in their children by establishing boundaries. It’s one of the most unrewarding jobs, but one with the best long- and short-term effects.

If children learn how to live with boundaries in a healthy way, their teenage years will improve. In fact, teens only need two things to prevent eating disorders: love and boundaries.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Piñeros, S., Molano, J. y López de Mesa, C. (2010). Factores de riesgo de los trastornos de la conducta alimentaria en jóvenes escolarizados en Cundinamarca (Colombia). Revista Colombiana de Psiquiatría, 39(2), 313-328.
  • AEPNYA. Trastornos de la conducta alimentaria (TCA). Procolocos 2.008.
  • Ochoa de Alda, I., Espina, A. y Ortego, M. (2006) Un estudio sobre personalidad, ansiedad y depresión en padres de pacientes con un trastorno alimentario. Clínica y Salud, 17(2), 1-20.
  • Martínez, D. y Martínez, S. (2017). Relación entre tratornos de la conducta alimentaria y género y familia en adolescentes escolarizados, Suba (Bogotá). Carta Comunitaria, 25(143), 29-33.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.