olys asks:

How can I talk to my daughter about her depression, anxiety and problems with overeating?

I am looking for some skills to teach my daughter with possible anxiety and depression.
My nine year old daughter has been hiding food in her bedroom and sneaking snacks, eating food off of other dinner plates when she is cleaning up after dinner.  It's an issue that her dad has seen when she is with him over at his house.  I clearly feel that what she is doing is emotional eating- but I'm not sure how to work with her and talk with her about it.  I believe she was about 100lbs at her last Doctor visit -6 months ago) for her age and height 4'3.  Her Dad insists it's more about promoting healthy eating (and yet has the "junk" available at his house).  She gets extremely nervous if she thinks she is in trouble with him.  And when she is with him, she has a tendancy to isolate herself in her room.  Luckily, we have a fantastic Nanny whose eyes are open to much of what is going on when she is at her Dads house.  I want to be able to talk with her about it directly in a way that won't make her feel like she is in trouble, or help her learn some new skills for dealing with what appears to be anxiety and depression...(a therapist is out of the question since her Dad will not sign the co-consent form).  My heart is  just breaking for her that she might feel so much pain inside.  She is an amazingly sweet and generous child.
In Topics: Communicating with my child (The tough talks)
> 60 days ago



Jul 21, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

Hello and thank you for writing to JustAsk,

You may wish to investigate if your daughter's school has a program to promote healthy eating and to also talk with student's who have possible body issues problems. This person may be the school guidance counselor, nurse or school psychologist.

Also, be a good listener. Your daughter may open up to you, but it could take time and some help from others to help start the conversation.

Good luck!

Louise Sattler, NCSP
Nationally Certified School Psychologist

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Additional Answers (2)

tmp123 writes:
I can certainly relate with your daughter - turning to food when anxious or upset is something that I've done most of my life.  I tend to think that many Americans do the same thing.   As a mom, I've tried to give my children alternatives to food so they don't suffer later on from the same compulsive overeating that I do.

My first thought would be to get her help - professional help.  Anxiety and depression are SERIOUS!!  As she gets older it could tend to get worse if not handled properly.  Document what you are seeing, her moods, her coping strategies, and then seek professional medical advice.  You might be able to force her father into allowing her treatment, eventually.  But since that isn't an option at this point in time, it seems as though you will need to be the facilitator of different coping strategies.

First, I believe that a very honest talk with her about what your observations are is needed.  She may not even realize what she is doing to herself.  She's turning to food to help suppress her feelings - it's a numbing type of sensation.  Through eating the food, the feelings are pushed way down and you don't have to deal with them (I've done this for years).  So, she needs a different way of coping with her feelings.  Might I suggest...

- Journaling: encourage her to write about what she's feeling - maybe purchase her an inexpensive laptop that is her very own.  When someone writes about what they feel, it's a release of somewhat toxic energy.  Similar to speaking to someone, just the paper (or computer) is the other person.

- Wii Fit: exercise stimulates positive chemical reactions in one's body thereby helping them to feel better about him/herself.  If she's too young to go on a walk by herself when she's feeling anxious, what about working out to the Wii?  It's fun and can be done anywhere.

- stress ball:  A small ball that can be squeezed when stressed might be another option.  

- Meditation:  When feeling anxious, a helpful technique is to meditate.  Finding a "happy place" she can go to in her mind that is peaceful and joyful.  It may sound a little corny, but I learned this in my personal therapy sessions - and it does help!  Also, it's something you and she can do together, then when she is away, she can use it as a coping device.

- Me Projects:  Work with her on seeing all that is beautiful about her.  Make a poster with her of her favorite things and have it framed.  Take her to a pottery painting shop and have her decorate a favorite piece of pottery.  Then place it in a prominent place in your house in celebration of her sense of style.  Create a scrapbook with her of her favorite memories.  Have a spa day - even if just at home with the two of you - taking time out for just her and how special she is.  Go to a local beadery and work together on creating a necklace or bracelet to remind her how special she is.

- Positive Self Talk:  This is one of the most important tools you can give her.  Depressed individuals tend to have a "negative self talk" that they say over and over inside of their heads.  "Why would anyone love me?"  "I'm not good enough."  "I'm not pretty."  Words that are damaging to their esteem and confidence.  So teach her how to say positive things about herself - by you saying them aloud about yourself.  And then encourage her to do the same.  This is a LONG process, but doable and so very important.

I suffer from depression and anxiety, too.  These are things that I am currently doing to help myself.  But please know, that depression and anxiety in young children is very serious and you really need to seek the help of a professional.  It sounds as if you may have an uphill battle with her father, but it's one you should actively pursue.  Talk to a lawyer, talk to doctors and her teachers.  Document all that you can so that eventually he will have to give consent or be forced to give it.  

Good luck.  I hope things get better for you.

> 60 days ago

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troubledtee... writes:
Please maintain strong relation and two way communications with your daughter. If kids don’t get enough time and support from their parents they think they are not important for them. So cheer your child with love and care. You can also take help of counselors who are expert in <A HREF=http://www.troubledteens.net/>treating depression</A> and mental trauma problems.

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