Eating disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses that affect adolescents, and their impact can be devastating as well life-threatening. In addition to causing health risks and suffering for your child, it is agonizing as a parent to know that your child is dealing with such a distorted perspective and the associated negative emotions toward their body.
The best way to help is always to seek professional treatment, and in-patient facilities for eating disorders are a common route to recovery for many teenagers. You may also be working with a therapist and doctor that’s overseeing your child’s health and progress. As you two move forward, it’s important to continually help them develop a healthy, empowering attitude toward their body image and identity. Here are three ways you can help your child during their eating disorder treatment.
Work With Their Counselor
Ongoing psychological counseling is an important part of eating disorder recovery. Your child can have the confidence of a therapist who specializes in eating disorders to reveal their struggles and thoughts in a space that feels safe and personal to them, you can also talk with the therapist to learn tips on how to help your child work through difficulties and continue to help them build a healthy body image and self-esteem.
Encourage Regular Eating
Nutritional rehabilitation requires consistency and encouragement on your behalf, your child will likely still struggle to eat regularly early in their recovery, and they may still likely hold moralistic views toward certain foods. For example, salad and low-calorie foods are “good” and carbs or fatty foods are “bad.” They could also be tempted to only eat when they’re hungry, but allowing them to skip regular meal times affects their metabolism, blood sugar, and mood.
Mental and physical stability are maintained through healthy eating patterns, so you should encourage and ensure your child follows the meal plan outlined by their therapist in recovery. Eating disorder treatment is essential toward recovery. Through personalized nutrition plans and individual and group therapy, your child will be able to not only build better habits but begin to reframe their beliefs about food, their body, and appearance.
Be Compassionate but Firm
Your child has to be accountable for their well-being, and a major focus of recovery is helping the patient become capable of managing their symptoms and acting in their own best interest. You need to support them with as little judgment and as much love as possible. That does not, however, mean you ignore warning signs or allow them to become passive in their recovery because it’s difficult. The most compassionate thing that you can do for your child is continually motivate and guide them toward a healthy body image and lifestyle.
Recovery is always a work in progress, so remember to be patient with your child and forgiving to yourself. It’s not uncommon for parents to blame themselves for their child’s eating disorder. Focusing on the here and now, modeling self-love and a positive body image, and collaborating with your child’s mental health professional is the best way to help them move forward.