Being supportive of someone with an eating disorder can be very difficult, especially when that person is your child. You feel like you should have been able to protect him or her. You feel like you are responsible and you could have done something. But there are some more productive ways that you can spend this time while your child is getting the help that he or she so desperately needs. There are some things that you should be doing while he or she is in eating disorder treatment.
Do not assign blame
Blaming yourself, blaming your child, or blaming anyone is counterproductive. Much of the early research done into eating disorders placed all the blame on the parents of the child with the eating disorder. There are a lot of complex reasons why someone develops an eating disorder. And most of them have nothing to do with you as the parent. While it is important to listen and respond to anything that is brought up by your child’s treatment team, placing blame on anyone is unnecessary. It does not matter where the fault lies. It does matter that your child is getting the treatment that he or she needs.
Don’t be afraid to talk about it
Keeping your child’s eating disorder a secret only increases the shame and guilt associated with it. Secrecy and shame are two of the major components of eating disorders. Many families are intimidated and do not know how to talk about this kind of difficult subject, but that only gives the disorder the power. Talk about it as a family. Talk about what is going on with your friends and extended family. If you are not including the people that you trust in this complex and emotionally charged situation in your life then you are not likely to be getting the support that you need.
Stop dealing with your own appearance
That is not to suggest that you should stop taking showers and stop putting on makeup if that is something that you like to do, but spending time thinking about and talking about your weight, your body size, and other issues associated with your relationship to exercise, food, or appearance can be setting an unhealthy example for your child. He or she is looking to your for guidance, and if you are focused on dieting and how fat you are getting, the message you are sending is one that will end up perpetuating the eating disorder rather than aiding in its treatment.
Get help for yourself and anyone else who needs it
Eating disorders do not just effect the person with the disorder. They effect the whole family. You must be honest with yourself about whether or not you need help to deal with this stressful situation. If you need to seek out professional help, do so, and offer that same option to anyone else in your family who may need it. Other children in the family will be feeling the strain on you and the eating disorder sufferer. They may need a little bit of professional help too. There is no shame in getting help. Set a good example for everyone by getting the help and support that you need.
Keep hopeful and be patient
Eating disorders are very serious and sometimes deadly diseases, but they are treatable. There is no reason why your child could not make a complete recovery with the right kinds of help. Treatment takes time. Just because you are not seeing immediate results does not mean that the treatment is not working. These things take time. Losing your patience is not going to be very helpful for anyone involved. It might actually be making matters worse. If you are concerned about the prognosis or about how long treatment is taking, speak with your child’s counselors or treatment team. He or she may have some insight into the progress your child is making which will ease your mind.