Whether they are 12 or 22, seeing your child struggle with an eating disorder can be one of the most challenging and heartbreaking situations for a parent.
There might be feelings of fear, confusion, shame, overwhelm, anger, or anxiety.
And for many parents, there is that secret worry that tends to gnaw in the middle of the night:
Did I do this to my child? Am I to blame?
We know that parents do not cause eating disorders, and yet no matter how many times a parent may hear this, sometimes the worry that they should have done something differently still lingers.
Eating disorders are complex disorders that involve both genetic and environmental triggers, and healing from an eating disorder involves addressing many components for both the individual and their family.
While parents are not to blame for eating disorders, it is important to recognize that genetics, personality traits, interpersonal and family dynamics, and the culture within a family all play a role.
Whether your child is a minor or an adult, the more that parents, caregivers, and loved ones can be involved in their child’s treatment, the better.
If your child has an eating disorder, you’re likely focused on getting them the support they need, but it’s also critical that you do the same.
Here are 4 reasons that you should seek support from a qualified therapist if your child has an eating disorder.
Reason #1: To Help You Learn About Eating Disorders
Psychoeducation should be the first part of any treatment for a mental illness, eating disorders included.
Having your child be diagnosed with a disorder such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, or ARFID can be confusing and frightening. Working with a therapist who is specifically trained in eating disorders can help you better understand the diagnosis, what it means, and explain the course of treatment.
Your therapist can also explain the genetic, environmental, and temperamental factors that contribute to eating disorders, helping you understand the complexity involved in the formation of the disorder and again relieving the fear that no one person or thing is to blame.
An eating disorder therapist can also help you understand the importance of working with a multidisciplinary team, various levels of eating disorder care, and different treatment modalities, giving you a roadmap to the components necessary for successful treatment.
While this is especially true for parents of minors, this is also important for parents of adult children with eating disorders. Even adults want their parents to understand that their disorder wasn’t a choice; it’s an illness. The more you can learn about the disorder and its treatment, the more your child will feel validated and supported.
Reason #2: To Better Understand Personality Traits & Family Dynamics
Eating disorders are strongly related to certain personality & temperament traits. These traits predispose your child to interact with you (and the world) in a certain way, and vice versa. If you’re a parent of multiple children, you already know that each child elicits a different way of parenting and no two children are alike.
Working with a therapist can help you better understand your own personality traits and how these interact with your child’s. This work is done without judgment, but rather with a sense of curiosity so that you can explore the dynamics within your own family, identify which ones are healthy and worth keeping, and look at the ones that need strengthening or altering.
Having your own therapist can also provide you with skills to improve communication, interrupt maladaptive patterns, and create healthier family systems that involve boundaries, support, and healthy expression of emotions.
I am now accepting new clients. If your child is struggling with an eating disorder and you are looking for an experienced clinician who can help you navigate this territory, please reach out to our intake team at (720) 675-7123 and schedule your free consultation or fill out a contact form and our admin team will be with you shortly.