Bulimia: How you can help your child at home

 

Bulimia​ is a challenge for the whole family, not just the person who is experiencing it. But there are some steps you can take at home to help your child recover while they receive other types of treatment.

​​Seek treatment

Bulimia does not go away on its own. It is important to seek help as soon as you suspect it in your child. The first step may be to make an appointment with your family doctor to get a referral to a specialized eating disorder program.

Be a healthy role model

As a parent or caregiver, you are a role model for your children. It is important to promote not only a healthy body image in children but also to show that you have a healthy body image. Avoid saying negative things about your physical appearance and weight in front of children. Instead, focus on what your body can do and on your positive attributes that have nothing to do with appearance. Minimize talk about good or bad foods and focus instead on overall health.

Create a regular pattern of family mealtimes

Make eating meals together as a family a priority, starting when your child is young. Emphasizing health and nutrition, rather than fat content and calories, helps children develop a healthy relationship with food. Eating as a family also promotes strong family bonds and better communication.

For children and teens diagnosed with bulimia, meal supervision is a key part of recovery. If your child has bulimia, it is important for someone to sit with them for every meal and snack during the first phase of their treatment.

Be persistent and consistent

Children and teens may experience anxiety or guilt during and after mealtimes, but it is important to maintain consistency and continue challenging their eating disorder behaviours and fears. The only way for someone to overcome these fears is to keep eating different types of foods and eliminate compensatory behaviour such as purging.

Keep triggers to a minimum

Some environments can make it harder for a person to recover from bulimia. You can help your child's recovery by reducing exposure to situations or materials that might trigger their eating disorder, such as diet books and websites, exercise materials or typical binge foods.

Key points

  • Bulimia affects the whole family and requires a range of steps at home to help your child recover and resume your family’s normal routine.
  • It is important to seek professional help as soon as you suspect bulimia.
  • Try to be a healthy role model in how you talk about your own appearance and your non-physical qualities.
  • Emphasize overall nutrition rather than fat or calories and limit your child’s access to typical binge foods and materials that focus on dieting or exercise.
  • Have someone sit with your child at every meal to supervise their eating, especially during the first phase of their recovery.
  • Be persistent and consistent in encouraging your child to eat a range of foods and avoid purging as compensation.

Further information

For more information on bulimia, please see the following pages:

Bulimia nervosa: Overview​

Bulimia: Signs and symptoms​

Bulimia: Medical complications​

Bulimia: Treatment options​


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​Seena Grewal, MD, MSc, FRCP(C)
Teresa Bansen, MSW
Tania Turrini, RD​
2/2/2016

Resources

NEDIC – National Eating Disorder Infor​mation Centre (Canada)

NEDA – National Eating Disorder Association (United States)

American Academy of Pediatrics – ​Eating Disorders in Children ​

B-EAT – Beating Eating Disorders (United Kingdom)

Kelty Eating Disorders​ (Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre, BC Children's Hospital)

Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario – Eating Disorders​



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