5 Ways to Support Your Child Going Through Eating Disorder Recovery

eating disorder

Helping your child face an eating disorder can be incredibly overwhelming. It’s one of those struggles you can’t just take on for them, even if you badly want to. There are professional services that can help, like anorexia treatment options, but it’s also best to know how you, as a parent, can help support them through recovery. Here are several things to keep in mind.

Don’t criticize their appearance

In today’s world, being critical of someone’s appearance is common, both intentionally and inadvertently. The world has increasingly put a big value on someone’s appearance, and that has bled into daily conversation. Greeting someone by making a comment on their appearance, be it as a compliment or as a dig, has become quite usual. You might have picked up some of this unintentionally. Without thinking, you might be making comments toward your child that you deem helpful. Telling someone with anorexia that they’re gaining weight as they push on with treatment might seem like a positive, supportive comment, but it’s best to completely avoid voicing your opinion on someone’s appearance, much more when they’re going through eating disorder recovery. It can be a big trigger and result in negative consequences, derailing their progress.

Expand your compassion

No matter how much information and research you do on eating disorders, it is simply impossible to fully understand the nuances and breadth of what your child is going through. Not even treatment professionals and doctors have the capacity to absolutely ascertain every aspect of your child’s psyche and journey as they battle against an eating disorder. This is why as a parent, having a child go through eating disorder recovery requires you to expand your compassion in ways you haven’t even thought possible.

The usual ways you show support might not be helpful and positive reinforcement you want to provide might not always work. Understand that it’s not about you. It is a difficult time, and you need to broaden your understanding. It will hurt but try not to take their struggle as a sign of your weakness as a parent. Understand that your child is the one most suffering in the process, and do your best to always be compassionate toward their situation.

Don’t show your frustration
mother and daughter

As mentioned above, being the parent of someone suffering from an eating disorder can be incredibly frustrating. It’s natural to feel hurt and exhausted during the process, especially because what you can do is severely limited. Your child has to go through the majority of the struggle on their own while you support from the sidelines. Accept that it’s a difficult journey. This can help you remember that your child is not doing anything to hurt you on purpose, and they–even when it doesn’t look like it–want to recover and triumph over the eating disorder as much as you do. Forcing them to eat (or not eat) is not going to work. It’s not going to solve the problem and might push them away from you. 

Also, make sure that you completely avoid guilting them into doing something. What helps is using ‘I’ statements when talking to them instead of ‘you’ statements. For example, “I am worried about you” is better than “You are worrying me” as a show of concern. It’s very likely that they already feel incredibly guilty as it is. You wouldn’t want to add to their internal crisis.

Remind them that treatment and recovery is possible

Someone struggling with an eating disorder can feel very hopeless. The hill can seem too high to climb, and it’s easy to lose sight of the possibility of ever recovering. As a parent, you can help by reminding them that recovery is indeed possible and that it isn’t a life sentence. You don’t have to downplay the difficulty of their struggle in order to do this, but remind them that there are treatment options available and that you are going to stand by their side throughout the process. 

Eating disorder recovery can be a long and difficult process. Exercising patience and utmost compassion will help you endure the journey and stay alongside your child in support of their recovery. It’s also not a straight line. Many people struggling with eating disorders can go back and forth between active recovery and disordered eating. Always remember that it is not your fault and that you can only support them through it but not take on the full responsibility of recovery for them. Keep being gentle but encouraging. 

Being the parent of someone with an eating disorder is quite a challenge. It might be one of the most challenging things you will go through with your child. With the help of professionals and your love for your child, there remains hope for their recovery.

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