Finding out that your child has an eating disorder can be disheartening and even scary for a parent. While it’s important to work with your child in discovering the causes and creating a path back to wellness, it’s important to remember that as a parent you could actually make things worse. You need to be very careful in both your approach and your attitude concerning the disease.
Here are three things you should avoid doing if you suspect, or know, your child has an eating disorder:
Never try to handle it on your own
It is not advisable to try to handle an eating disorder on your own. While you may know your child the best and love them, fighting an eating disorder needs the professional support and advice of a trained counselor or therapist.
One of the known, contributing factors of eating disorders is when the child feels they are not getting the approval that they desperately need. The hard part for a loving and supportive parent to realize is that, you could actually be part of the problem. Your child's feelings of inadequacy could be made worse simply by you, the parent, knowing about the eating disorder. Your child might feel even less worthy of your love.
Don't stay ignorant
Simply acknowledging the eating disorder is not enough. You must be part of the solution. Working with your child and a professional counselor or therapist, it is important to unearth the reasons that lead to the eating disorder.
Some of these might include:
trying to have control over areas of their life
stress about achievements or accomplishments
fear of loneliness
feelings of inadequacy
anger towards self or others
These are simply a few of the underlying factors that could lead to your child’s eating disorder. You should work together to understand the factors and how to begin to move past them.
Don't escalate the situation
While all parents want the best for their children, it is possible to do more harm than good when it comes to the emotional well-being of your child. As your child faces an eating disorder, it is important to learn how you should act and respond so that you don’t escalate the situation.
Working with a professional will help. A professional counselor or therapist can work with every member of the family to create a positive support system for your child. They can guide you in how you should respond to specific situations you will encounter as your child struggles to take control of their eating disorder. Knowing how you can be supportive and how you should act is important in helping your child overcome the disorder.
It can be frightening to have a child who is facing a huge challenge like an eating disorder. But with the right professional help, you can work together as a family to understand the disease. You can work together with your child to create a successful environment and a plan for taking control of the disease instead of letting it control your child.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.