– Advice from a former parent of Walden Behavioral Care’s Adolescent IOP
1. It is not your fault. Eating Disorders have complex causation. However, parents are increasingly seen by researchers and clinicians as presenting the best possibility for a full recovery. Your child’s best chances for recovery involve early and aggressive treatment and you will play a big role.
2. People with eating disorders can’t see they are sick. “I am strong, look Dad, I can do forty pushups!” This is a confounding aspect of parenting a child with an eating disorder. They can’t stop, pitching meals, or vomiting, or running those extra two miles, because they have an eating disorder.
3. Aspects of treatment may make you very anxious at first or seem to raise your child’s anxiety a lot more than it was before treatment. This anxiety can make your child seem extremely resistant; however, their defiance does not mean that treatment will not ultimately be effective. Trust your clinician. Meet your child’s resistance with unwavering yet compassionate support. It is a skill set, that your clinician will help you develop.
4. Be a full participant in your child’s treatment. If there are two parents in the home, then it takes two parents fully committed to every aspect of treatment because an eating disorder will try to fracture and divide you. If you are a single parent, you are not alone. Committing to early treatment will often mean deferring some aspects of day-to-day life to focus on nutritional, medical, and psychological aspects of getting well. This may mean your child takes time off the soccer team, ballet lessons or maybe school, and that you may have to take a leave from your job. These changes may make your child very angry, but it is often necessary to make full effective recovery a priority.
5. Eating disorders have the highest mortality of any mental illness. Think it can’t happen to you and your child? Think again. Eating Disorders don’t discriminate. They are ruthless and harsh. Kids can still perform remarkably well academically while deeply sick, earning an academic award, running around on the soccer field, doing pushups, until the swift and harsh physical toll suddenly takes effect. It can turn on a dime. It happened to us. Don’t wait.
6. Take care of yourself. If you are unable to be a full participant in the day-to-day challenges of parenting during treatment the chances of your child making a full recovery will diminish. I don’t just mean take time to get a manicure. If you have anxiety or symptoms of PTSD, which are natural and understandable feelings during this crisis, get your own clinician to get it under control. Because, if you’re not mentally stable, your child’s best chances to recover go down. Get yourself out of the way, so you can step up to being fully present for your child’s eating disorder treatment.
7. Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible…. And let me tell you how empowering it is to save a life and to get your child back. I have HOPE for full recovery for your child. I see it in my own child every day!
For more advice and to join the conversation on helping your child recover from an eating disorder, connect with Walden on: