If your child has ADHD, you may want parent coaching to help with eating issues, ranging from very picky eating, forgetting to eat, disordered eating and eating disorders.
Eating issues are scary for parents, but they’re not uncommon. More than 1/3 of people who have eating disorders also have ADHD. This rate is much higher than the general population of people with ADHD (3-10%). Early intervention is key, so your engagement right now will make a difference!
You want to find the most effective way to help your child eat healthfully. Additionally, you want them to develop a better relationship with food and build self-care skills. And yet many parents feel helpless and stuck. Someone with ADHD is usually highly sensitive to the experience of eating. Additionally, they are highly sensitive to criticism and direction. It’s easy to get entangled in a power struggle over food when your child has ADHD.
You may find yourself facing the tough choice of sending your child to a residential treatment center. There is nothing wrong with using residential treatment if that’s what is needed. Please seek advice from your child’s doctor and therapist on this, as your child’s physical health is of utmost importance.
Parent-led treatment for eating issues
However, if your child is medically stable and you are up for it, there are evidence-based treatments that you can do in your own home to help your child with ADHD reduce their eating issues, gain weight if needed, and recover from an eating disorder if present.
And the good news is that you can take the lead on this treatment. Your child does not need to be engaged or motivated for you to make change. This is especially important for kids with ADHD, who are often resistant to treatment due to a number of neurological factors. But you don’t need to feel helpless. There is a lot you can do to help your child eat and feel better.
Parent coaching for kids who have ADHD and eating issues begins with identifying how your family is currently handling eating and feeding. We’ll uncover your existing habits and patterns. You’ll learn how to make small changes that will make a big difference.
Next, you’ll learn exactly how to feed your child. Yes, even when they say they aren’t hungry or refuse to eat certain foods.
Finally, we’ll work on a parent-led behavioral intervention. This will help you clearly and kindly encourage your child to eat without triggering resistance and opposition. You are 100% in control of your own behavior. So that’s what we’ll focus on to help your child feel safe and able to eat.
How parent coaching can help
Parent coaching for a child with ADHD can help with all types of eating issues, including:
- Picky eating
- Disordered eating
- Skipped meals due to distraction
- Restrictive eating for weight loss or due to food aversions
- Binge eating
You’ll learn to encourage eating despite resistance. Additionally, you’ll learn to respond with compassion and strength during emotional storms. Know what to do when behaviors like food refusal, negotiating, anger, frustration, and violence show up.
How do parents get a child with ADHD to eat?
Getting a child with ADHD to eat is very difficult. Your child has both physiological and psychological symptoms that contribute to eating issues. This means that your child is not willfully choosing not to eat. Instead, they are responding to powerful internal and unconscious cues to not eat or eat chaotically.
Eating disorder behaviors like binge eating, restriction, and purging are self-soothing behaviors. They help your child with the deep sensations of emotional dysregulation that are common with ADHD. You can support your child by:
- Developing emotional regulation skills
- Teach “functional eating” for when your child doesn’t want to eat, but needs to
- Set a firm feeding structure and expectations
- Stay calm and confident before, during, and after meals
- Encourage and prompt eating
- Use distraction, validation, and other techniques to reduce stress before, during, and after eating
- Don’t negotiate about food and eating
Parent Coaching for ADHD and Eating Issues
Getting parent coaching can help you be more effective in parenting your child with ADHD and eating issues. Parents who get support, training, and skills are more effective and less burned out. If you’re interested in learning more, drop me a note:
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cheat sheet: parenting a child with an Eating Disorder
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Important note: Ginny is a coach, NOT a licensed therapist. She cannot diagnose or treat mental illness, addiction, eating disorders, etc.