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Feeding your child well is one of a parent’s most important jobs – but it’s not always easy. At Children’s Health, we understand the complex relationships between food, family, health and emotions. Each year, we help hundreds of children of all ages have a healthier relationship with food. And we provide parents with life-changing tools to guide their children towards a more balanced, joyful life.
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Eating disorders are problems with the way a child eats. They’re more common in young children than most people think. And they can happen to a child of any gender, race or ethnicity.
Eating disorders affect children physically and mentally – and can create a lot of stress for families.
Treatment can help you and your child feel better in many ways. Our specialized treatment programs for children ages 5 to 12 can:
We offer comprehensive treatment for three types of eating disorders:
Anorexia is when a child refuses to eat a normal amount because they’re scared of gaining weight.
Bulimia is when a child overeats and then throws up (vomits) or uses laxatives to prevent gaining weight.
Children with ARFID struggle to eat for reasons that are unrelated to weight gain or body image. They may eat only a few specific foods and refuse all others. This may be based on texture, taste, a fear of choking or vomiting, or other fears or struggles.
Eating disorders are not always obvious. A child can look “normal” and “healthy” on the outside but have serious physical and emotional problems on the inside.
The first sign that you – or your child’s doctor – may notice is that your child isn’t gaining the typical amount of weight for their age or height.
Other early signs of anorexia, bulimia or ARFID in children include:
Boys and girls with anorexia and bulimia may also:
Boys and girls with ARFID may also:
If there are concerns about your child’s eating habits or body image, give us a call. We will ask you questions over the phone to help figure out what type of eating disorder your child may have and how best to help.
A physical exam is recommended to make sure your child isn’t having any other medical problems. One of our mental health clinicians will also do a comprehensive evaluation to understand your child’s health, eating habits and behavior. Then we’ll recommend the right level of care to meet your child’s unique needs.
Many parents wonder, “Why is my child not eating?” or “Why can’t my child eat normally?” The answer is usually not simple.
It’s important to realize that the causes are different for every child, and that parents are never the cause. But parents can be part of the solution.
Here are some things that can make a child more likely to have an eating disorder:
We’re committed to the best evidence-based care available. We offer several levels of expert care, depending on the unique needs of your child:
We know that what works for one child may not work for another. We take a variety of approaches to help children and their families figure out what an eating disorder means to them, and how to get back to eating healthfully. You and your child can benefit from:
Children’s Health℠ offers world-class, compassionate care from a variety of experts who specialize in treating eating disorders.
Yes, a 4- or 5-year-old can have anorexia or bulimia. Research shows that children as young as 3 become aware of different body types and labels like “fat” and “thin.” Something as simple as hearing “you’re at the top of the growth curve” can begin to shape how a child sees themselves and how they eat.
Body image problems tend to get worse as children get older. Early treatment can set your child up for a happier, healthier life.
Food phobias and neophobia can be a part of ARFID. Food phobias are most common in children who also have Autism Spectrum Disorder, but they are not specific to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Many children with autism struggle with different food colors, textures and tastes.
Yes, over 20% of our patients are boys. The number of children and teens with eating disorders continues to rise in children of all genders. We have the expertise to tailor treatment for boys, girls, transgender and gender-fluid children and teens.