As the parent of a child with an eating disorder, you want to do everything you can to help your child overcome their struggles with food. One of the best steps you can take to help your child recover is to offer unconditional support and love to your child before, during, and after eating disorder treatment. Below are ten tips to help you support your child along with five things that can stand in the way of their successful recovery.
Ten Things to do if Your Child has an Eating Disorder
When your child is diagnosed with an eating disorder, it is normal to feel a bit overwhelmed. Many parents are not sure how to deal with a teen eating disorder and it is not uncommon for a parent to feel a bit powerless. The good news is that you can play a major role in your child’s recovery process and can event help prevent an eating disorder from recurring. Here are ten teen eating disorder tips for parents to follow.
1. Be patient
The path to successful recovery from an eating disorder begins with patience. Lasting recovery is possible, but the treatment process takes time and cannot be rushed. Depending on the severity of your child’s eating disorder, the treatment process itself may last between a few weeks to more than a month. Recovering fully from a serious or recurrent eating disorder may take years of ongoing therapy and treatment.
2. Tell your child you love them no matter what happens
The unconditional love that you provide can be a difference maker in your child’s recovery. The most important thing to remember about showing your love and support is timing. It will usually be easier to show your support when your child reaches a treatment milestone. But there can sometimes be setbacks during and after treatment. It is during these challenging times that your child actually needs your love and support the most.
3. Educate yourself about eating disorders
Taking time to learn about eating disorders can help you be a more supportive force in your child’s recovery. There are many ways that you can educate yourself about eating disorders, including the following:
- Read books, journal articles, and studies about adolescent eating disorders
- Listen to podcasts on adolescent eating disorders on your way to work or scheduled activities
- Meet with a registered dietitian to discover how you can plan therapeutic meals and select foods
4. Accompany your child to their appointments
Driving your child to partial treatment or taking them to their outpatient therapy appointments accomplishes three goals. First, you can be sure that your child is complying with their treatment plan. Second, you show support for their treatment efforts. And third, you have a chance to debrief with your child about their treatment session on the way home.
5. Provide support with school work
Ideally, the treatment program you choose works with your local School Board to provide any educational support your child needs to keep up with their schoolwork. However, parents can help with this task as well. Keep a watchful eye on your child’s school progress and take action quickly if your child seems to be falling behind.
You can also provide support by remaining in contact with your child’s teachers and exploring the possibility of online coursework. If you need to intervene, remember to do so in a supportive fashion to help prevent your child from becoming overwhelmed and experiencing a relapse.
6. Join an eating disorders support group
Eating disorder support groups for parents offer a host of benefits. First, it can be comforting to realize that you are not the only one with a child struggling with food-related issues. Second, you will receive valuable tips other parents use to help their children recover. And third, you have a supportive environment to share your experiences, frustrations, and successes. Whether you would like to learn more about your son’s male teenage eating disorder or simply learn how to talk to a teenager about an eating disorder, a support group can be a helpful resource.
7. Monitor your child’s overall health
Children and adolescents with bulimia and anorexia are at increased risk for a variety of physical health conditions. For example, children and teens with anorexia have an increased risk of constipation, menstrual irregularities, and arrhythmia. Health problems associated with bulimia include tooth decay, electrolyte imbalances, and heart failure. Be sure to contact your child’s pediatrician or primary care doctor right away if you notice these signs.
8. Resolve to spend more time with your child
Spending more time with your child is a great way to show your love and support. Choosing shared activities that you and your child can enjoy together is a good start. Try to avoid food-centered activities and events, especially while your child is completing treatment. Once your child has completed treatment, you can gradually begin to reintroduce events that feature food.
9. Keep an eye on your other children
Research shows that there is eating disorders tend to run in families, putting other children you may have at higher risk for an eating disorder. Keep a watchful eye on your child’s siblings for unhealthy eating behaviors and significant weight fluctuations. You may also wish to ask your child’s doctor or therapist if they recommend family sessions that involve siblings.
10. Remember that an eating disorder is not like Chicken Pox or the flu
It would be wonderful if eating disorders were more like Chicken Pox and you never had to worry about relapse once your child recovers from one. But unfortunately, relapse is fairly common among people with eating disorders. For this reason, you cannot view the recovery process in a vacuum. Instead, keep in mind that your child is always at risk for relapse and never assume that they are “cured” following a successful recovery.
Five things that you should not do if your child has an eating disorder
Knowing what not to do is just as important as following the tips above. Taking the wrong approach can impede your child’s progress and delay recovery. Here are five things that you should avoid doing if your child has an eating disorder.
1. Never assume that you know what is best for your child
As a parent, you are used to providing guidance and advice to your child on virtually every topic imaginable. But eating disorders are complex and are best treated by a highly trained specialist with years of experience guiding children to recovery. So it is best to let a skilled eating disorder specialist provide treatment recommendations and guide decisions.
2. Do not center your conversations around food or physical appearances
Eating disorders often develop in children and teens as a result of an obsession with their physical appearance. Food becomes a focal point because affected people think that they can achieve a desired appearance by adopting eating behaviors that are unhealthy. As a parent, try to center your conversations around a person’s internal attributes as opposed to their weight or outward appearance.
3. Refrain from imposing timetables on your child’s recovery
Your child is unique. It is important to remember that every child with an eating disorder is going to respond differently to the treatment process. Some will respond well and achieve treatment goals quickly, enabling them to recover faster. Others may require more individual attention and a longer course of treatment. While it is okay to help your child remain focused on treatment goals, refrain from imposing a recovery deadline that could set your child up for failure.
4. Avoid making accusations or blaming others
There is no time for accusations or blame during the treatment process. If you find yourself wondering who is to blame for your child’s eating disorder, take a step back and channel your thinking and energy into the ten activities above. Eating disorders are not anyone’s fault and the best thing you can do to help your child is to focus on supporting the recovery process.
5. Do not take your child’s actions personally
Overcoming an eating disorder requires focus and hard work. Children and teens going through this process may experience frustration, anger, and anxiety. And sometimes they take their frustrations out on their parents and other people they love the most. Knowing how to talk to a teenager about an eating disorder is not easy. But if your child becomes angry, defiant, or sullen with you, just remember that they are going through an incredibly difficult time in their lives.
The Key to Helping Your Child Recover From an Eating Disorder
By following the tips outlined above, you can help your child overcome their unhealthy eating habits. However, the key to helping your child recover from an eating disorder is to seek treatment quickly from a trusted adolescent eating disorder center. With the help of an experienced specialist, your child will learn how to develop a healthy relationship with food and fully recover from their eating disorder.
For more tips about eating disorders, we invite you to contact us at Fairwinds Treatment center today. We look forward to showing you why families across the country turn to us for adolescent eating disorder treatment.