Quick Tips for Parents and Carers for Early Intervention

There are a number of ways parents, peers and relatives can be more mindful and engaged in a loved ones development, especially when it comes to their relationship with food, body and exercise. can be difficult. Below are some quick tips and guidance for parents and carers, as well as some useful links for more information.

Having conversations with children and young people about their body image is crucial in helping them develop a strong relationship with themselves.

The Importance of Language

We all communicate in different ways, particular at home with our families, but language matters both directly and in-directly. It is important to remember that for your children you are a role model, and how we think about our own bodies, food and exercise can be very easily absorbed into their own ideology. It matters most how we talk about others, and how they see us talking about ourselves.

Language Do’s

  • Emphasise a child’s qualities that are not related to their appearance.

  • If you’re increasing food variety into a child diet, be mindful of your intentions. For example, encourage your child to eat fruit and vegetables to ‘feel good’ and have energy rather than to lose weight or avoid getting fat.

  • Consider how you choose to label food, terms like junk food or ‘treats’ can lead to the individual feeling more ashamed.

Language Don’ts

  • Don’t make critical comments about weight or appearance.

  • Don’t speak critically about other people’s body and appearance, or your own. Be aware that you are a role model to your peers and your child(ren).

  • Be mindful when you use words like ‘diet’.

Body Image

Check out our ‘Understanding Body Image‘ resource where we explain what body image is and how it can affect the way we think, feel and behave. We also explore where our struggles with body image might come from, and how we can begin to create a kinder relationship with our bodies.

  • Body image directly influences our self-esteem, as well as our feelings, thoughts and behaviours.

  • If you don’t like your body it is hard to feel good about your whole self.

  • If you do not value yourself it’s hard to notice the good things and give your body the respect it deserves.

  • People can become fixated on trying to change their body shape, which can lead to unhealthy practices with food and exercise.

Tips for Carers

Caring for a loved one with an eating disorder, diagnosed or not, can be overwhelming. It is common for families to feel that their new ‘carer’ role is impacting their own mental and physical health which is why First Steps ED feel our carers support pathway is an important offer within our service.

  • Do not blame yourself for the development of the eating disorder.

  • Understand that an eating disorder is not a phase and without intervention it can become a very serious illness.

  • Do not walk on eggshells around your loved one. It can be helpful to maintain a regular routine and not exclude them from any usual responsibilities.

  • Encourage your loved one to follow body neutral/positive pages on social media to encourage positive feelings towards their own bodies.

  • Accept that eating disorder is a serious illness that can be stressful to manage and seek support yourself if needed.

Supporting Yourself

Eating disorders impact whole families. Caring for a loved one can be exhausting, distressing, and disorientating. Many carers feel they have tried everything and don’t know where to turn next. It is important before things overwhelming that you take time to care for yourself, so you feel able to support your loved one. Check out for our blog for advice on ‘Self Care‘.

  • Keep enjoying your own interests and hobbies outside of your caregiving responsibilities.

  • Socialise with your friends and other family members.

  • Practise positive thinking and attributions.
  • Consider journaling as a way to express your feelings (check out our tips on Journaling.)

  • Seek professional support for yourself.

Contributed by Ashleigh Dyszkant