If a normally healthy child develops the common cold, a parent can find an easy solution quite rapidly: receiving antibiotics from their child’s primary care doctor, or purchasing over-the-counter cough medicine from their local pharmacy. But, what if your child has been diagnosed with an eating disorder? Previously, parents were frequently taught that parental intervention with a child who has an eating disorder could make the illness worse. We now have evidence that this is not the case; the parent is now considered the child’s strongest ally during the treatment and recovery process.
While caring for and supporting your child may seem daunting at first, it’s critically important for a parent to act quickly, rather than standing idly by. With early intervention and adequate knowledge of the proper steps to take, a parent can ensure their child will make a speedy recovery. Below, I’ve put together a comprehensive list of the proper actions a parent should take if their child has recently been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder:
Keeping yourself informed on the ins and outs of mental health disorders will be crucial for understanding what your child is going through. Share the information you find with your child so they can begin to realize the bodily consequences of having a long-term eating disorder. If they end up absorbing the information from constant reminders, they may begin to take their recovery more seriously. Below are a few great resources to find accurate information and various treatment techniques:
It’s important to acquaint yourself with the different types of eating disorder therapy and treatments, including family-based treatment, a leading outpatient treatment for children and adolescents with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Discover more about the various levels of care including outpatient, intensive outpatient (IOP), partial hospitalization (PHP), residential treatment (RTC), and medical hospitalization. If you have insurance, call your insurance provider and make sure you are familiar with any benefits you may have.
Websites to find treatment providers and therapists include:
It’s common for children with diagnosed eating disorders to not realize that something is wrong, even after their doctor explains the situation. Known as anosognosia, a child with certain types of disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, will be unaware of their own mental health condition, or they will not be able to perceive their condition accurately. If your child continues to deny that something just isn’t right, it’s important to remain focused and supportive rather than placing blame. Practicing a little compassion can go a long way, so try to frame their unhealthy behaviors not as a “wrong behavior” that results in punishment, but as symptoms of a controllable mental disorder that mirror the pain they feel inside.
Regardless of how difficult it may be to put yourself in your child’s shoes, believing whole-heartedly that a full recovery is possible is paramount to their well-being. Because the steps to healing are not going to be linear – your child will start to make progress, but then may fall into unhealthy eating habits again – make sure to understand that this is just a bump in the long road to recovery. Be courageous for your child, constantly reminding them that they have the strength and determination to get healthy again. Even in times where things seem to be taking a turn for the worse, make sure to offer your unconditional love and support.
Recognized as one of the top South Bay and Hermosa Beach, CA psychology practices, I provide therapy to teens who may be suffering from eating disorders. I constantly strive to offer a safe space with a warm, open environment for both parents and teens to start their long journey on the road to health and recovery. If your child is suffering from an eating disorder and you have any questions or concerns about therapy, or if you would like to schedule an initial appointment, please give me a call at (310) 892- 2572, or reach out to me on my contact page.