When your child is diagnosed with an eating disorder, your natural inclination is towards more information. You want to know: How long? Why is this happening? When will it stop? What can I do? But these answers, frustratingly, may be slow to surface. You want to understand what your teen is experiencing to offer the necessary support for their improvement. Yet, they may hold feelings and experiences close to their chest like cards in a game of poker.
Perhaps you’re aware how complicated and bewildering eating disorders are. Perhaps the symptoms of bulimia or anorexia have been plaguing your child for years, and now, along with an official diagnosis, you are feeling pangs of frustration and guilt. Maybe you’re angry or scared. These emotions are ALL completely natural responses. It’s hard and often scary to see someone you love suffering. Their journey to recovery will not be an easy process, and as you walk alongside them in this journey, neither will yours.
“Transformation is a process, and as life happens there are tons of ups and downs. It’s a journey of discovery – there are moments on mountaintops and moments in deep valleys of despair.”
— Rick Warren
So what can you do? How can you support and walk alongside your teenage child in this difficult time?
1. Educate yourself.
The first step you can take is to learn as much as you can about eating disorders. Remember that natural inclination towards more information? Use it. By educating yourself with facts, first-hand accounts, and helpful tips you’ll start to feel a weight lift as your fears begin to diminish. Much of your anxiety is probably a result of the not knowing. So learn what you can so that you do know.
2. Get help from professionals.
You don’t have to travel this road alone. According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), professional treatment can reduce the chance of significant psychological and health ramifications. Simply put, identifying and treating an eating disorder as soon as possible can save lives. Professional intervention can help you both understand the disorder and why it exists. Doorways offers outpatient treatment in Phoenix, Arizona for teens and young adults (13-25) with eating disorders, as well as family counseling. If your teen or young adult is struggling with an eating disorder, contact us for a free consultation. 602-997-2880.
3. Don’t over-simplify.
The solution may seem simple to your non-disordered brain. “Just eat.” However, this advice isn’t helpful and only serves to isolate your loved one further. Instead of oversimplifying, use meaningful communication to express your concern and your willingness to see the situation from their eyes. In fact, voicing your own mistakes or weaknesses will go a long ways in allowing your child to feel comfortable in doing the same.
4. It’s not your fault.
Finally, an eating disorder isn’t caused by a single factor. They are incredibly complex. So, this eating disorder isn’t your fault. We’ll say it again. This is not your fault. Your shortcomings as a parent didn’t produce an eating disorder. But we understand you may be feeling like they did. However, we encourage you to set these feelings aside and focus on presence. Stay involved. And continue to walk alongside your loved one through this deep valley…helping them to reach a new mountaintop.