Eating Disorders – Parent Guide
Ask your kids about the amplif(i) presentations they saw at school.
What choices did the speaker make that they can or cannot relate to, what did they learn?
Tell your kids what your family’s position is on healthy eating habits.
Talk to your spouse, agree on your family’s position, and share that with your kid. Make that position very clear and always remain consistent, don’t waiver.
Listen more than you talk.
If your kid is willing to talk, listen without judgment, no matter how irrational she or he may sound.
Be a role model for healthy eating, exercise, and body image.
Avoid negative comments about your own or anyone else’s body. Even the most subtle comment about the body can do significant damage.
Expect denial, defensiveness, and anger as you work with your kid.
People with eating disorders are hurting, and this hurt often creates irritability, fear, anger, and defensiveness. It is important to listen without interrupting or judging.
If you believe your kid is suffering from an eating disorder, communicate your concerns.
Share your memories of specific times when you felt concerned about your kid’s eating or exercise behaviors. Explain that you think these things may indicate that there could be a problem that needs professional attention, and that you want your kid to feel supported by someone he/she trusts.
Understand that eating disorders are challenging, but treatment is do-able.
You must stay positive, affirmative, and firm in your conviction that recovery can be achieved. Understand that eating disorders present a complex set of challenges that typically require intervention from a team of professionals. Neither parents nor youth are likely to be able to solve this illness on their own. Please ask for help.
Don’t “insist” that your son or daughter has an eating disorder.
Instead, seek the advice of someone you trust like your family physician or psychologist. Perhaps you may use your kid’s annual physical as a way to explore the extent to which a problem is present. It would be a good idea to alert your doctor ahead of time about your concerns.
Focus more on their health, relationships, and future than on current weight or appearance
Work to avoid power struggles or comments that might foster feelings of guilt or shame. Convey feelings of respect and concern about your kid’s need for professional assistance. Emphasize that you want your kid around and healthy for many years. Our kid must hear we love them just the way they are.
Don’t blame yourself.
Instead, take steps to be the most effective and supportive parent that you can be. Remain calm as you set firm limits insisting that your teen not skip meals or eat alone. Avoid power struggles in which you may be viewed as the “food police.” Be ready to accept the advice of the doctors if they believe that a hospital stay is required to safely address the disease. Be especially firm if your kid pleads with you to leave him/her alone or promises to change on his/her own.
Seek assistance from professionals with specific expertise in treating eating disorders.
Ask your kid to explore concerns with a counselor, doctor, nutritionist, or other health professional who is knowledgeable about eating issues. If you feel comfortable doing so, offer your help to make an appointment or accompany your kid on their first visit. A nutritional counselor will be helpful in designing meal plans that address nutritional deficiencies and facilitate success. The services of a behavioral/mental health professional will be invaluable in managing impulses to eat or avoid eating as well as in addressing emotional difficulties that often underlie eating-disordered behaviors.