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If you suspect your child may have an eating disorder, take it very seriously. The number of teenagers developing an eating disorder has been increasing each year, but so has the awareness regarding this issue. Here are some guidelines to help you deal with your daughter’s illness.

The first thing you need to do is to discuss your concerns with your family physician, counselor or therapist. Do not approach your daughter until you have sought advice. In addition to the above people, you may want to search your local library for books on eating disorders. There are many wonderful and informative books that will help you to understand what it is you are dealing with. Also, you can surf the World Wide Web for information. There are many sites that provide free articles and self-help advice.

Once you have an idea of what an eating disorder is, you can start to open a dialog with your daughter. Denial will most likely be the first thing that happens. Try to be supportive, not judgmental. Your daughter will probably be feeling a great deal of shame surrounding her eating disorder and an accusation or ultimatum may send her deeper into the illness. You may want to reassure your daughter that you will always be there for her, no matter what. Most people with an eating disorder have a profound feeling of isolation. It is important to keep the lines of communication open. Provide your daughter with eating disorder information. Let her know treatment is available if she wishes.

Don’t try and force your child to eat. This will only set up a power struggle. Since an eating disorder is about control, the illness will only be reinforced and grow stronger. This will also damage any trust that may have been developing between you.

Actions speak louder then words. Think about how you deal with weight issues. Are you always on a diet? Commenting negatively on your appearance? You may need to change some of your behaviors. There are many support groups available for parents that help them cope with a child who has an eating disorder. You may be experiencing some guilt around your child’s illness. Seeking help for you is also important. You may find it comforting to speak with other people who are in the same situation.

Lastly, do not give up. Even if the situation feel hopeless, there is always hope. There is help available. It may be hard to find, but as awareness about eating disorders increase, more treatment becomes available.