Navigating an eating disorder through the role of a caregiver can be quite difficult. You may feel as though you don’t know what to say to your child or that you tend to get into arguments when you bring up certain topics. This blog post will be about things my parents did that helped me when I was battling with my eating disorder.

One of the greatest things my parents did was continue to show how much they cared for me even when I snapped back at them for trying to “help” me with my ED. They would tell me that they were always rooting for me and loved me, which helped to know they would be there no matter what. Your child needs to know how much you care for them in this tough time, don’t forget to remind them. Even a simple hug or emphasizing a success can be huge. 

Also, keep in mind that your child may not view successes in the same way as you do. They will most likely think that not giving into symptoms is wrong. It will be anxiety provoking for them, and yet it is important to emphasize how good of a job they are doing. This reinforces that they can handle the anxiety and that they are moving forward towards recovery.

Another thing my parents did that really helped motivate me was to give incentives and set goals. My biggest incentive was to go back to college after winter break. They explained that in order for that to happen, I had to be at a certain point in my recovery. This made me realize how much my ED was taking over. Incentives will not work for all and are not the end point, but they can be something to consider. Even setting a daily goal can be helpful. Focusing on one meal at a time and being mindful are good goals.

My parents also set boundaries with me while I was at home. They explained that Bob (what we called my eating disorder) was not allowed in our house. By personifying my eating disorder, it aided in creating space for me. My parents made sure to emphasize that they wanted the best for Anna and that Bob did not align with my future goals and values. 

My eating disorder took a lot away from me, and my parents pointed this out when it occurred. For example, if we were out to eat and I ordered a salad, they showed me that the restaurant had my past favorite food on the menu. I wouldn’t always change my order at first, but it made me recognize that I was choosing something that I didn’t actually want.

Again, these tips will not always work for your child. They will be met with resistance at first and perhaps for a long time. The most important thing is to show your support and tell your child that you are coming from a place of care and love for them.

~Intern Anna for Becky Henry

Thank you so much Anna for these insights into what worked for you and your family! Family caregivers can find more resources and help at my websites for Hope Network, LLC and Recovery Roadmaps, LLC. Family caregivers do not need to do this alone, we’ve created a variety of resources to suit varying needs and budgets.