Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Eating Disorder Service

Information for family and friends

How to help the young person

  • How to help
  • Listen to the young person and give support.
  • Make time away from food to enjoy each other’s company.
  • Liaise with school about work. Home study should be appropriate and not a cause of distress.
  • Be aware that unrealistic pressure on vulnerable young people can contribute to the development of an eating disorder.
  • Setting realistic expectations and creating a balance between work and leisure can help to prevent the development of an eating disorder.
  • Celebrate successes, even small successes, and accept the differences between siblings or friends.
  • Avoid discussing your own anxieties about food or body shape with your son or daughter.
  • Be aware of how young people use the internet. There are destructive websites available that can strongly influence the development and maintenance of eating disorders.
  • Encourage a healthy lifestyle
  • Encourage a healthy eating pattern that includes three main meals each day. Snacks between meals can help prevent fatigue and aid concentration, so encourage eating some food at least every 3 hours if your child is not already doing so.
  • If your child is finding it difficult to finish their meals, they may need support and encouragement
  • It is important that young people eat breakfast before leaving for school and have time to eat lunch. Encourage a packed lunch if there are lunchtime activities that prevent eating the meal provided at school.
  • Encourage the young person to drink at least 1.5 litres (3 pints) per day of any non-alcoholic fluid.
  • A balance between school and recreation is important.
  • Encourage exercise as part of a daily routine unless they are physically unwell.
  • Make sure that young people have sufficient sleep.
  • Useful questions to ask your child
  • Are you having problems at school that make it more difficult for you to eat?
  • Are you worried about anything?
  • Do you think that your worries are preventing you from seeing your friends?

Last updated: 12 March, 2019