More children turn to Childline during the summer as they struggle with eating disorders and body image issues
Published: Thursday, 27 July 2023
New data on counselling sessions
- Childline delivered more than 4,000 counselling sessions, including 273 in Scotland, to children and young people with worries around body image and eating disorders
- 40% of these counselling sessions take place during the summer – June to September
- Ahead of the holidays Childline reminds children the service is here to support them
Childline, the counselling service run by the NSPCC, reveals new data showing that 40% of all the counselling sessions they delivered last year on eating disorders and body image took place in the summer months (June to September).
Across the whole year - April 2022 to March 2023 - Childline delivered 4,179 counselling sessions to children struggling with these issues. 273 of these were in Scotland.
1656 (40%) of those counselling sessions based on these topics took place from June to September, the lead up to and the duration of the six-week summer break.
Eating disorders and body image issues were the 6th most common concern for children contacting Childline in 2022/23 in Scotland.
In the run up to this year’s summer holiday, Childline knows that many children might be struggling to cope with these issues and wants to remind them that their trained counsellors and online services are here to support them.
Common themes that came out of Childline counselling sessions on body image and eating disorders include:
- Comparisons to friends, siblings, and people on social media
- Guilt around eating particular “bad” foods or guilt about eating at all
- Negative comments from family, friends, bullies, and partners about their weight and body often contributes to body image concerns
- Weight worries linked to lockdown, gaining weight due to lockdown inactivity or stress
- Not knowing how to manage weight or fitness without going to extremes
- Cancelling plans due to body image issues
Childline knows that there are number of factors that make the summer holiday a particularly tricky time for children and young people struggling with their body image or their relationship with food.
For some, the prospect of wearing clothing which shows their body more can make them feel under pressure to look a certain way, that they need to lose weight or change their appearance.
For others, this pressure is also reinforced as many will be spending more time online during the summer months to keep in touch with their friends and to stay entertained. As a result, we know many children may be exposed to more content online that might make them feel negatively about the way they way look.
Additionally, children who struggle with eating disorders might find a change in their day-to-day routine and eating habits over the summer period difficult to cope with.
A girl in Scotland aged 16 who reached out to Childline said*: “How is Tiktok full of so many beautiful people and I look like this? I stare out at my face in the mirror and can only see what needs fixing. My lips, my nose, my eyes, my cheeks. Even my friends agree my nose is huge. Make up doesn’t do what surgery and fillers can do.”
A boy aged 13 told the service: “I feel so guilty every time I eat. I’ve been trying to be healthy and cut down on food, but it doesn’t seem to be helping. My older siblings are all so skinny, everyone says they’re so handsome and look like models, then there’s just me. It’s been upsetting me so much lately, thank you for letting me offload how I’m feeling.”
Kieran Lyons, Service Head of Childline said: “Every year our trained counsellors speak to hundreds children in the run up to and during the summer holidays who are struggling with their body image or eating disorders.
“Summer can be a really a tough time for anyone who is already dealing with these issues, and it also can be a time which can make others who ordinarily felt happy with their body image begin to feel negatively.
“Regardless of your situation or your worries, Childline is here to ensure that no child is left to cope alone with any worry they have.
“If you are struggling with your body image or an eating disorder, we want you to know that Childline is here to help, and we can support you on what you can do and how to make things feel better.”
If there is a young person in your life struggling with their body image or an eating disorder here are some tips on how best to support them
- Remind them that how they look is part of who they are and that their personality, achievements and the way they behave is important too.
- Images they may see on TV, in magazines, in social media or online are often altered and airbrushed so what they are seeing isn’t always real.
- Remind them that everyone is different and not to compare themselves to anyone else. Accepting themselves is all about them noticing things they are happy and unhappy about and realise that is what makes them unique.
- To help build their confidence encourage them to spend time focusing on a hobby they enjoy.
- Also, it may help if they write down every morning a few things they like about themselves.
All children can speak to a trained counsellor over the phone on 0800 1111, via email or on a 121 chat on the Childline website.
Children can also visit the website to find more advice on any concerns or questions they may have on body image and eating disorders and they can also use the service’s monitored message boards to get support from their peers.
About the NSPCC
The NSPCC is the leading children’s charity fighting to end child abuse in the UK and Channel Islands. Using voluntary donations, which make up around 90 per cent of our funding, we help children who’ve been abused to rebuild their lives, we protect children at risk, and we find the best ways of preventing child abuse from ever happening. So, when a child needs a helping hand, we’ll be there. When parents are finding it tough, we’ll help. When laws need to change, or governments need to do more, we won’t give up until things improve.
Our Childline service provides a safe, confidential place for children with no one else to turn to, whatever their worry, whenever they need help. Children can contact Childline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Our free NSPCC helpline provides adults with a place they can get advice and support, share their concerns about a child or get general information about child protection. Adults can contact the helpline 365 days a year.
Phone: 0808 800 5000