Labor of Love: Helping Your Child Overcome an Eating Disorder
It can be worse than overwhelming to discover that your child has an eating disorder that can threaten their life and their future. As a parent instincts can run from denying that there is a problem, to thinking that it is a problem that is easily fixed, to wanting to do everything in your power to fix the problem for them. One of the first and most important things that parents must learn is that their child has a serious and life threatening illness that must be treated by professionals that specialize in eating disorders.
This is not something that parents can fix by making their child eat, no will it just go away because it is a phase, if you suspect that your child may have an eating disorder you should start by seeking out a primary care doctor to discuss your concerns with him. He can do things like check to see if your child is underweight as well as give you suggestions about where to seek help for your child.
You will need to have your child assessed by someone that is a professional in the field of eating disorders, depending on how severely underweight your child is and how long the eating disorder has been going on you may be able to take them to a counselor to have this done and begin treatment. This is certainly a good first step, and a professional from there can help you decide what your child needs, whether they are able to provide it or where you need to go to get them the help they need.
There are several different types of treatment available and each treatment is based on the severity of the disorder and how much weight your child has lost. Individual therapy is a good starting point but if it is not enough you may be able to enroll your child into a day program or full time residency program. These programs are designed for those that are medical stable and need more focused and controlled help than therapy alone can offer. Hospitalization are for those that have a serious or long standing eating disorder and have become medically unstable, typically the hospital will get the child stable again and then they will be transferred to a residential program.
A day program will have your child in the program for the entirety of the day to come home and sleep with you at night where as a full residential program will have your child in the program 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The length of the program will again depend on your child and the level of their illness, you will need to discuss these arrangements with whoever evaluates your child.
The Importance of Family Therapy
Another important step to helping your child will be to attend family therapy with them, this therapy offers a chance for families to be involved in and understand the illness and recovery from it. You will learn how best to communicate with your child and how to help and support them in their recovery. This is a family process so all members of the family unit will be expected to participate in this segment of your child’s recovery.
You should understand that recovering from an eating disorder is a long process that can be very difficult for your child and those that love her. You may find that it will take repeated trips to residential care, or lengthy amounts of therapy, this is not a failure on anyone’s part but simply a part of the process. As a parent it is your job to stick with your child and support them for the long term.
You should express your love and acceptance of them, this is a critical part of the process, and you need to remain supportive with laying blame or shame during the entire process. Use the eating disorder specialists to understand how best to monitor your child and their eating behaviors, eating disorders can be life threatening so it is important to make sure that your child is not causing serious harm to themselves.
How to Cope with An Eating Disorder
Coping with an eating disorder is confusing and overwhelming both for the person with the disorder and for their family, you don’t need to cope with it alone however, nor should you try. At Center for Discovery we offer one of the only adolescent eating disorder programs and we can help you understand and cope with the difficult complexities of eating disorders, please visit our site for more information and to contact an eating disorder professional.