Let the treatment team help you, you meaning parents of someone struggling with an eating disorder. When living with someone who’s struggling, there is undoubtedly tension between family members and the family dynamics tend to become imbalanced. The child that’s struggling will get more attention than the one who isn’t. The child who’s struggling has to finish their plate AND dessert, and the other child doesn’t. Unfortunately, these dynamics typically grow exponentially worse the longer the eating disorder continues.
Now that I talked a little about the tensions that develop in households when a child is struggling with an eating disorder, I bet you want an answer as to how to help it. The answer that is most appropriate is to allow the treatment team to help you. Allow the nutritionist to set a meal plan, allow the doctor to make recommendations for treatment based on the child’s changing health, allow the therapist to work with the child to explore what the faulty beliefs and underlying issues may be. Parents certainly do have a role and a responsibility in the recovery of their child, but perhaps not in the way that you think.
Let me explain a bit more. When you hover over your child while eating, attempt to force-feed them or accuse them of lying, it creates more tension and hostility, which then creates a toxic environment. Toxic environments are not conducive for recovery. It may sound counter-intuitive, but what I will suggest is to back off of your child a bit. Even though your efforts and actions come from a place of love and concern, your child will start to feel that you are against them. Again, this is not conducive for recovery. I’m not saying that you can’t bring up concerns that you have to your child, but I am suggesting that you do it in a therapy session instead of at the dinner table. As therapists, we can help to facilitate that conversation to make it productive as opposed to both you and your child becoming angry and frustrated at home. We need your child to understand and know that you are a supporter, and not the enemy.
Not only could backing off a bit be helpful for your child, but it’s going to be helpful to you and your family as well. It can give you some relief from the constant stress of yelling, pushing or accusing. It gives your family that ability to have a nice time together again. Also, your other children can feel like they aren’t in the shadow of their sibling’s eating disorder, which often occurs. Remember, your child’s treatment team is here to help. As a therapist, I stress the importance of family work for my clients, where we can work together to create dynamics that are both positive and productive.
As an ending note, if you have a child that is struggling with an eating disorder, you probably are struggling yourself. It is really difficult to be a parent of a child going through something like this, but it is necessary for you to not forget yourself. You need to continue caring for yourself and your relationships. Remember, your child needs you and you cannot be fully there for him/her if you aren’t well yourself. Continue date nights, meeting up with friends, doing hobbies and your spa days. You need them and you deserve them. I would also strongly encourage you to seek out a therapist of your own that can help deal with managing the stress and emotions through this hard time.
If you have any concerns or questions, please leave a comment or message me privately from the “contact me” page.
I wish you and your family wellness and a State of Balance in your lives.
Binge And Restrict Cycle
Eating Disorder Specialist
Healthy Self Vs. Eating Disorder