Could be helping your kids advance their disordered eating.
A look at some books written for teens that fall in the “children’s lit” category over on the New York Times‘ Well Blog hit home for me especially because I WAS one of those teen girls who, pardon the pun, but ate up the stories of teenage bulimics. I wanted to read about someone I could identify with.
But even as I read the horrors of girls whose bodies had begun to grow excess hair to make up for the lack of fat to keep them warm, of girls who landed in hospitals weighing what they did as elementary schoolers, I wasn’t consciously thinking “ooh, can’t wait until I land in a clinic for the eating disordered, wonder if my parents’ insurance will cover the costs.” What I was thinking was “interesting, she eats a brightly colored food first so when she throws up, she’ll know by the color in the toilet that she’s gotten to the bottom of her stomach contents.”
It’s why today I’m loathe to tell my daughter horror stories to scare her straight on anything. Because before you reach the awful ending, there are always the details that fascinate, that often overwhelm kids with their one-track minds, that are entirely more enticing than the sobering after-thought of a consequence.
Although I’m wary of blaming a book for a child’s struggle with an eating disorder (ninety nine times out of one hundred, the seeds for that have already been sewn), just as I scoff at the idea that a video game is solely to blame for a child’s violent tendencies, any book, movie, game, what have you, that shares intimate details of how someone navigates a dangerous path is a potential how-to manual in the hands of our kids.
It’s why I read this warning about eating disorder books as just another reason parents can’t pass the buck off onto a book, a movie, a CD. If you’re going to keep your kid from disordered eating, get wise to what it means to have an eating disorder, find out the warning signs and then TALK to your kids. Let them read books, sure, but read them yourselves so you know what’s in them. Then talk about them.
Because if all you’re doing is trying to scare your kids into being good, it isn’t going to work.
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