Battling an eating disorder as a child or young adolescent can be especially difficult due to the judgments you may receive from your peers, your teachers, and your parents. Whether you have been secretly hiding your eating disorder or you may fear that your parents may be aware of your dangerous behaviors, confiding in your parents so you can seek the proper treatment can be incredibly scary but is also the best choice, as your parents genuinely want the best for you. Whether your parents have suspected you have a problem with eating, or they are shocked, it will be difficult for them to hear how much you are hurting, as eating disorders are truly devastating. Never fear, we are here to support you and can guide you through the nerve-wracking process of talking to your parents about your eating disorder.
Talking about your eating disorder
You must consider the best way to approach your parents, as you know your parents best. If you live with both parents, decide whether you want to talk with them together or separately. Sometimes writing your thoughts out on an email or a letter to make sure you include everything in a transparent manner can be helpful. You can share this letter with them, use it as a reference when you meet with them, or you can choose to give them this letter so they can read it and digest the material in private. You may also want to include someone else in this conversation, maybe a sibling or another close family member, who will support you during this conversation. This can also hold you accountable as you may reduce the chance that you change your mind at the last minute. They can also help you remember important details or questions you want to ask.
When and where to talk
If your family is busy, it may be best to ask them to plan a time a day or two in advance where you can sit and talk with them. Simply tell them that you have something important you would like to share but would want to do so in a private, relaxed setting where neither you of them are rushed. After dinner, a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, or a day off might give you the most time as mornings before school or right after they get home from work are probably not the best times. Although it is essential to have this conversation uninterrupted, where nobody is rushed and in a private setting; you should not prolong this conversation for a long while, as this is an important issue that needs to be discussed in a timely manner.
What to say
There are no perfect words or magic formula that will help you get through the process of talking to your parents about your eating disorder. Although this is a difficult conversation, it is essential that you are honest and you tell your parents exactly how you are feeling. It is acceptable to admit you’re feeling nervous, scared, sad, or lonely. If it helps, take your notes or a letter with you when you talk. Some ideas on how to talk about an eating disorder include:
• What you have been doing and how it’s hurting you
• You want to stop, but haven’t been able to alone
• Eating disorders, mood disorders, and cutting are medical illnesses, not a choice
• You need their help now, so you don’t hurt yourself even worse
• These problems can get better with counseling and treatment
• Ask them to do some research on their own
• You need to see a doctor, and to find a counselor who is experienced at treating eating disorders and/or cutting
Learn about eating disorder treatment options
Your parents may not understand, they may become angry or sad, they blame themselves, but their reaction is not what is important. Talking to your parents about your eating disorder may help you get access to professional help, which is the most important matter at hand. Your parents are not responsible for your eating disorder, but they can play an important role in your recovery. If your parents are feeling guilty or ashamed, the best thing you can do is point them to resources to learn more. Printing off some of the articles you have read might be a good start. It’s also helpful to remind yourself that you’re not responsible for your parents’ feelings or reactions. It will be a process for them, just like your recovery will be a process for you.