It’s very difficult to watch your adolescent suffer from an eating disorder. Often individuals who have an eating disorder do not seem to want to get better and this can be frustrating for family members. You may be feeling confused, scared, or at the point where you feel desperate to try just about anything to get your teen back into a healthy eating pattern. At these times, parents try to do what they feel is best for their child, but some actions can actually impede the child’s progress. Here’s a help list of things you should avoid doing if your adolescent has an eating disorder.
Blaming yourself is futile. The most current research indicates that the causes of eating disorders are complex and involve many factors, such as genetic and cultural triggers. It is vital that you bring your concerns to your teen’s treatment team and be aware of any behaviors or attitudes of your own which may be contributing to, or prolonging the disorder. But bear in mind that your child’s eating disorder is unique to him/her, and you, as a parent, are not the direct cause.
If your teen is struggling with an eating disorder, he/she is already extremely self-critical. Avoid making critical comments, as this will only serve to lower your child’s self-esteem and increase his/her feelings of shame. Some of the topics of discussion that come up will be painful and difficult to talk about, but try to deal with these issues in a positive and supportive manner.
You need to set a healthy example for your teen. Dieting when he/she is struggling with an eating disorder is simply adding fuel to the fire. Your teen needs to be around people who display healthy relationships to food and their bodies. If you persist in dieting while your child is trying to relinquish an eating disorder, this will send confusing messages that will ultimately disrupt his/her recovery. If you feel that you have issues surrounding food, this may be a good time for you to seek help too.
You may feel uncomfortable or even ashamed of letting family and friends know that your teen is suffering from an eating disorder. Often, parents think that they are protecting their child and their family’s privacy by keeping it a secret. The fact is, if you don’t talk to and trust the people closest to you, you risk missing out on a valuable support network for both yourself and your teen.
Avoiding Help for Yourself
Eating disorders are not just traumatic for the sufferer, they are also very stressful for other family members. You need all the support you can get. Look for a treatment plan for your child that includes family therapy. This way you will have a safe space to express your feelings and professional advice on how best to help your child through this crisis.
Eating disorders are very serious illnesses and sometimes may even be fatal. It can be easy, in the midst of such trauma, to think negatively and expect the worst. Try to focus on all the positive things you are doing, like getting the best treatment for your teen and supporting them to the best of your ability. Maintaining a positive attitude and optimistic outlook are crucial in ensuring your teen succeeds.