Know the warning signs: Warning signs for eating disorders include obsession with food, weight, body and/or calories, abuse of laxatives or diuretics, lots of negative self-talk (saying "I'm fat" or "disgusting"), refusal to eat around other people, leaving the table during meals or vomiting after eating, cutting or hurting himself or herself, withdrawing from family or friends, lying about eating or food, feeling guilt or shame about eating, physical changes (such as hair loss, dry skin, tooth decay, or cold hands) and denial of a problem.
Be compassionate: That way, you're less likely to be judgmental. Nobody chooses to have an eating disorder. Nobody wants to be sick or obsessed with weight and food.
Be honest: Tell your child that you're concerned, and explain why. Talk in private—don't confront them in front of a group. Don't lecture or blame. Use "I" language, not "You" language. Example: "I noticed that you haven't been eating lunch lately," not, "You're not eating lunch anymore." "I notice that you're losing a lot of weight," not, "You're getting too skinny."
Be strong: Don't be surprised if your child denies having a problem, tells you to mind your own business or tries to pick a fight with you.
Tell someone: While you might think you can fix this yourself, you can't. Eating disorders are serious and need to be treated by a professional. Talk to a school counselor, therapist, your pediatrician or someone at a hotline to find out how your can get your child help.
Be aware of your own attitudes about food, weight and body image: If you're obsessed about your own weight, if you're always dieting, if you think that thinness is something to strive for, you won't be much help to your child—and you won't be very believable.
Don't associate food or weight with looks: Avoid saying things to your child like, "Honestly, you'd look better if you put on a few pounds" or, "Now that you've lost the 10 pounds you wanted, you really do look better, so maybe you can stop dieting." All someone with an eating disorder hears is, "I look awful!" or "I really was fat!"
Don't be the "food police": Don't monitor what your child eats or doesn't eat. Don't constantly ask your child if he or she is eating more (or less), or eating healthy foods, or drinking fewer diet colas. Don't try to convince your child to eat differently. Don't get into power struggles over your child's eating.
Help unconditionally: Be there and be encouraging, even when your child has a setback or seems frustrated or wants to give up.
Don't give up or get discouraged: Be patient. Recovering from an eating disorder takes time and a lot of effort.
Be realistic: Know your limits. You're not a doctor or therapist (and if you are, it's very hard to treat your own child!). You can't solve a kid's eating disorder on your own, and you can't force your son or daughter to change his or her behavior, or even to get help. What you can do is be aware, be there, be supportive and make sure that at least one trusted adult knows the situation.