Congratulations on navigating early treatment and getting your child on a path toward health in their treatment for an eating disorder. But what do you do when you can’t physically be there? The answer is to create a support network and communicate.
Your child will be away from you during school hours, and perhaps other social activities after school or on weekends. The supervision level will vary depending on where your child is in their treatment path, so just know, that whatever you establish now will be flexible as they progress.
- School meal support. Work with your clinicians to establish meal supervision during school hours. Some schools may be amenable to having a staff member such as a guidance counselor or school nurse assist. Some may balk, and it may require some communication and education and advocacy from your clinicians and from you. Use your clinical team to interface with the school in this regard. Meal support does not need to be specialized or therapeutic. It does, however, need to do no harm and it really involves communicating to you the parent whether a meal was completed or not. Nothing more. As your child progresses in treatment less daily feedback will be necessary, and other medical monitoring (like regularly weighing them on the scale) will give you feedback on school meals being accomplished or not so that you can address whether to compensate with increased meals or snacks or meal replacement at home or not.
- Non-school meal support. Your child will progress to being able to take part in social activities that will be away from you during treatment as well. This is a positive sign of engaging in recovery and normal adolescent life. Again, identify an adult if possible who can give you information regarding your child accomplishing the treatment goal of eating a meal and not necessarily engaging in a therapeutic discussion. As a parent likely you will need just to know, did they eat, or not. Nothing more. As your child progresses in treatment, medical monitoring (like the scale) will provide more feedback rather than relying on another adult. I also advise parents not to rely on a peer or a sibling for this information as it places a burden on their relationship with your child potentially. Some children like to establish a texting feedback with the parent to let you know what was accomplished or not, some may find it intrusive. So be flexible and work with your clinicians in this regard.
Summarizing: stick to your treatment plan regarding timing and content of meals and snacks. Set up a support network and communicate. And breathe…