When a parent discovers that their child has an eating disorder, they may begin to feel confusion, failure, helplessness, or even anger. Regardless of what parents feel, it is important to remember that the child is the one struggling with this life-threatening issue and it is up to the parent to give them the support that they require. If you have a child that is struggling with an eating disorder, here are some tips to remember to help you both on your journey to recovery.
Validate The Efforts
Dealing with any sort of mental illness, including eating disorders, is emotionally and physically exhausting. It is overwhelming, full of fear and anxiety, and everything else that makes these types of illnesses a true struggle to overcome. Any attempt that your child makes to overcome this challenge, even baby steps towards a healthier mental state, should be met with positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement shows your child that they have someone on their team supporting them when they need it most.
Don’t Pressure or Punish
A child who struggles with an eating disorder is likely using it as a method of self-punishment. They are already going through a tough time dealing with their compulsive and unhealthy actions. Attempting to pressure them into healthier actions may actually lead to further regression.
Remain Cool and Calm
Feelings of frustration, guilt, and anger are completely normal when parenting a child with an eating disorder. However, it is important to remember that your child is feeling the same emotions constantly about their own struggles. It is your job as a parent to set aside your personal emotions so that you may support your child.
Make A Plan
Planning a meal goes beyond just what the meal will consist of. It also includes who will be present during the meal, where it will be eaten, how it will be eaten, etc. These are all variables that your child will feel pressure towards. Establishing a plan, discussing it with your child, and sticking to the plan will instill a healthy routine rather than continuing unsustainable habits.
Modify Where Necessary
Sticking to a plan is important, but allowing room for mistakes and “bad days” is just as important. Don’t be overly strict. Remember that sometimes, a baby steps backward will propel you further in the future.
Helping your child through their eating disorder may not be easy, but it is your responsibility as a parent. If at-home care simply isn’t working, consider getting professional help. If you are in need of eating disorder support or counseling, call Mindset First today at 905.660.9284 to book an appointment. Our professional counseling services can provide you and your child the support you need.