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Education – My Top 10 Tips When a Child is Diagnosed with an Eating Disorder

My Jan 24, 2018 article:  What Parents and Health Care Professionals can Expect from Residential Eating Disorders Treatment, highlighted 15 points for parents to consider and prepare for while a child is in a RTC. I promised I’d go into more depth on each point. Please note that these pertain to anyone who cares about someone in recovery, I use ‘parents’ simply because they make up the majority of my coaching practice.

You may recall from my article; What Parents and Health Care Professionals Can Expect from Residential Treatment that the 4th step necessary for parents is education. Here I’m going into depth on the topic of Education.

What do I do when my child is diagnosed with an eating disorder?

1. Learn as much as possible.

Sadly, it’s not that simple. There is a lot of pseudo-science out there, inaccurate information, myths and so on. So it is vital to learn as much as possible from RELIABLE SOURCES.

How do I know what sources are reliable you ask?

     1.     Most treatment centers will do what’s called, “psycho-education” which is a fancy word that means they will teach you about the science of these illnesses. Many of you won’t be engaging with treatment centers so that might not be an option. You can still check out their websites for resources

     2.     Large organizations have lists of resources. Just google search eating disorder non-profits and you’ll find some like; NEDA, ANAD and The Alliance for Eating Disorders. I have a list of resources which I’ve vetted here on my website

     3.     Books and articles – there are so many you could spend years reading. Right now, find 1 or 2 to get the basics. Of course I’d love for you to read mine. 😉  And there are many more great ones, I have a list on my website of resources as well. This piece by the American Academy of Pediatrics is solid: https://www.aap.org/en-us/professional-resources/Reaching-Teens/Documents/Private/Eating_disorders_handout.pdf

2. Understand that there are not a lot of solid answers yet from research about these deadly illnesses. Many myths still abound and flourish…so the more you know, the less chance you’ll go down a not so helpful path.

For instance, there is not yet as of August 2018 a definition agreed upon in the field on what defines “recovered” or what “recovery” means. So how can someone fully recover when we don’t have a definition of what that is? Tricky I know. I know people who I highly respect who have come up with definitions that make sense to me, but again there is not one that is agreed upon and is the standard.

3. Memorize my top 10 “What do I need to know when my child has an eating disorder” answers:

1 .It’s not your fault. Practice self care to not beat yourself up.

2 .Your child did not choose to have an eating disorder. Practice self care to tolerate their distress.

3 .These are the MOST DEADLY of all mental illnesses and at LEAST 23 people die every day from them and many millions more are held hostage for life by them. They must be taken seriously and you will be terrified. Get help to practice self care to reduce your distress.

4. Starvation changes the brain AND can happen in any of the eating disorders and in any size person. Practice self care to stay calm during nutritional restoration.

5. Anyone who can breathe can develop an eating disorder. Here are the factors that don’t determine if someone can have one: age, gender, nationality, size, shape, color, height, sport, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status. Practice self care to manage your fears.

6. You are a vital part of the treatment team and need to be included in treatment and be treated with respect. Practice self care to increase your effectiveness.

7. With individualized treatment and enough time, eating disorders are treatable. Practice self care to have hope.

8. Brains and bodies can heal. Practice self care because recovery is not a linear process.

 9. Your child will likely hate you during the illness and self care is vitally important. Practice self care so you can be confident.

10. Boundaries and love are necessary and self care is not an option. Practice self care so you can be compassionate.Picture

You may have noticed if you’re astute, that I mentioned self care on each one…;)  That is because it is absolutely necessary, essential, vital and is NOT selfish. It models healthy behavior for your loved one, it shows them that you are not a puppet of the eating disorder, it preserves your capacity, sanity, health and relationships. Your loved one needs you to be:

1. Calm

2. Compassionate

3. Confident

Without self care it is not possible to be calm, compassionate or confident. Do this for your loved one until you can do it for you.

Clients and retreat participants have told me that they resisted practicing self care for a couple years even though I was telling them all of these reasons. Many factors influence this. Many of us grew up with beliefs about self care that can make it guilt producing. It’s time to shift that.
What will you shift in order to help your loved one? How will you practice self care? When would now be a good time to begin? 😉

Check out the Mom Moment video I made on EDUCATION. This is a preview of 10 minute video in my New Parent Packets.