How to Deal with an Eating Disorder: Tips for Parents
Parents face a lot of challenges when dealing with a child who has an eating disorder. Not only do they have to live with the day-to-day worry of if their child will survive, but they also begin to lose themselves in their child’s disease.
A person with an eating disorder often feels as if she must control her environment in order to feel normal. Unfortunately, this environment includes the parents. The types and amounts of food you buy become affected; the way you cook your meals becomes examined; and mealtimes become battlegrounds that are often scheduled around your child’s obsessive need to eat at a certain time. Your child’s eating disorder can also begin to exert control over your social life. Parents often find themselves turning down invitations to social events that involve food so that they can avoid the hassle or embarrassment of their child’s reaction. Parents may also avoid leaving their child at home for fear that they may be purging or compulsively exercising in secret.
It’s easy for parents to become so emotionally wrapped up in their child’s disease that the eating disorder begins to control their life as much as it does their child’s. So how can parents reclaim their life and deal with a child’s eating disorder? Here are four tips for dealing with an eating disorder in your family.
Don’t live by the eating disorder’s rules. Individuals with eating disorders adhere to strict rules about when and how they eat. But just because your child has to eat at a certain time or prepare his or her food a certain way, does not mean that you or the rest of your family has to do the same. Prepare food as you normally would and don’t keep yourself and the rest of your family from enjoying normal meals. Your child will probably refuse to eat what you are eating, but will eventually find a way to compromise.
Don’t neglect other relationships. It’s easy to become completely immersed in a loved one’s eating disorder. The constant struggle and emotional toll it takes can leave you unwilling or unable to focus on other important relationships. Don’t become so wrapped up in your child’s illness that you start to neglect other family members or friendships. Continue to maintain relationships so that your life remains balanced and fulfilled.
Find family support. There are many types of support groups for families dealing with eating disorders. There are 12-Step groups, therapy groups and family counseling available to help you cope with your child’s illness and provide you the skills needed to live your own healthy life. Most of these groups are free.
Seek treatment. The best way parents can deal with a child with an eating disorder is to get your child help at a residential treatment facility. Express your concerns to your child in a forthright, caring manner and gently but firmly encourage her to seek trained professional help. A residential treatment program for anorexia or bulimia will provide your child round-the-clock care performed by an expert team of physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, nutritionists and other specialists. Your child will receive nutritional support and counseling to learn how to better take care of yourself in the recovery process and develop a healthy relationship with food and your body. Holistic treatments such as yoga, meditation, touch therapy, biofeedback and spiritual guidance may also be included to treat not only your body, but your mind and spirit as well. After all, eating disorders are more than just a physical illness; the root causes are often caused by mental, emotional and spiritual imbalances.
Call an eating disorder treatment facility today and start the healing journey for your child — and yourself — today.