How can I help my child that has selective eating disorder (ARFID)?

avodiant/restrictive food intake disorder

If you want to help your child with ARFID, understanding what it means is the first important step you can take. However, it’s also important to know how you can further support your child. Read below for some suggestions on how to do this.

  1. The most important thing to do if your child has ARFID is to seek help from a psychologist. A professional will be able to help you come up with the best treatment plan for your child.
  1. Start small and be patient. If you push your child to either eat too much or to eat something they’re not yet comfortable with, it will likely fail. This will make both you and the child lose motivation, making it even more difficult. Instead, start by having your child just eat one bite of something. Once this becomes easy, you can gradually increase the amount or switch up the foods. 
  1. Be consistent. Although it’s hard, the only way to overcome ARFID is through exposure to these foods. This exposure can be very gradual, but it has to be consistent in order for it to work. Creating routines can make this easier. If you decide to always eat as a family for dinner, this already creates a selected time for trying new foods.
  1. Make sure your child feels included and listened to. The last thing you want to do is make your child anxious by demanding too much or creating a plan that they are uncomfortable with. The child should be involved in the process of deciding which foods to try. Ask your child if there are any foods that they are curious about. This builds trust and makes it more likely that the child will actually want to eat the food. 
  1. Once a child has become used to eating a certain food, make sure that the progress is maintained. Don’t phase out the food just because it seems like your child can eat it now. Instead, once they are comfortable with a certain food, make sure that they continue eating it occasionally so that you don’t have to start the exposure to this food all over again.

Having a child with ARFID can be overwhelming. There are many ways to make it more manageable. It’s important to keep in mind that every case is different. Don’t feel discouraged if these suggestions don’t seem to work for your child. It’s always possible to come up with a treatment plan that meets your child’s needs.

Read more: About ARFID.