Happy July! I hope you’re enjoying summer. I’m in Ireland now with family and as part of my SELF CARE, I’m inviting colleagues to share insights and helpful information as guest bloggers. If you’d like to participate, please reach out. This week, Brianna Ripoli, MPS, LPCC and Katie Gilder, MPH, RD, LD of Cultivate Counseling and Wellness in Minneapolis, MN are sharing their professional insights on how we support adult family members with eating disorders.
“How often do I need to change my bed sheets?”: Involving Supports In Young Adult Eating Disorder Recovery – by, Brianna Ripoli, MPS, LPCC and Katie Gilder, MPH, RD, LD
“What’s the Netflix password?” “Do you pay for Amazon Prime?” “How do I know if
something expired? Would it smell? How many days can pass before I have to throw
_______ (insert said food item) out?” “How do I replace the credit card that I lost last
night?” “How often do I need to change my sheets, what about my toothbrush?” “Where do I buy stamps?” “My driver’s license expired, what do I do?” “How do I cook chicken?” “How do I make an appointment with the dentist?”
Although funny, these are all common questions that young adults are asking their
parents when learning to navigate emerging adulthood. Although we’d hope our children learned these basic life skills while living in our home, most parents would not think twice about whether to help answer these questions.
Sadly, there is a common narrative placed upon many parents around whether families should help young adults navigate eating disorder recovery. The conversations can often sound something like this: “They have to hit rock bottom, so they actually realize how serious this is.” “They just aren’t motivated enough.” “They have to want to recover and choose recovery for themself.” “I cannot want them to get help more than they themself want to get help.” “But they’re an adult now, I can’t do anything about it.”
Maybe you have heard this narrative from your adult child’s treatment team or maybe you have thought it yourself. Maybe you are unsure of what to do to support your adult child in eating disorder recovery. Most adults (young adults especially) are not navigating life all on their own, so we believe there should not be the expectation that young adults should be able to navigate recovery without support either.
While it is true that you cannot “do” recovery for your child, the expectation for them to “choose it” on their own is unfair when the eating disorder is present and over-taking their thinking. With eating disorders, we know that part of the challenge is their ego-syntonic nature. In a culture that normalizes disordered relationships with food and glorifies the thin ideal, it may be impossible for someone entrenched in the eating disorder mindset to self-initiate recovery.
Many in early recovery would say that the guilt they experience from the eating disorder when making recovery-oriented choices, is too much to tolerate initially. With support, however, one’s authentic self can be present in wise-minded decision making around recovery.
The need for increased support initially following a surgery (ex: the typical winter break
wisdom tooth extraction) is not questioned. Therefore, we advocate that the need for additional support in early recovery should not be seen as autonomy limiting. The eating disorder has already stolen their independence from them. You are helping your young adult child to get back to the life they deserve living.
- 18 is not a magic number! You can be an advocate and involved in your adult child’s recovery.
- You are involved in your adult child’s life in multiple ways – walking alongside them in recovery is just another way to be a part of their life.
- Educating families around eating disorders makes the system easier for the young adult to come back to. Having to recover into a culture that is disordered with food is difficult enough – they shouldn’t have to do that at home, too! Unlearning these norms together provides your adult child a safe space to return to when recovery becomes difficult.
- It’s unfair to expect someone to recover from an eating disorder without support.Navigating a job, school, and making time to prepare meals can be a challenge for an average young adult, let alone someone with an eating disorder.
- Having supports involved is a way to avoid a higher level of care and lets the young adult stay in their life.
- Having supports involved helps individuals maintain recovery after a higher level of care.
As providers who specialize in family-based treatment for transitional age youth (FBT-TAY), we see a quicker return to life when families are involved. Not only is recovery achieved faster, but we also believe less damage is done to the relationship when families learn how to navigate recovery together.
If you are questioning how to support your young adult child, one way would be to seek out providers who specialize in FBT-TAY. Find a provider that is encouraging of including you in the process!
Brianna Ripoli, MPS, LPCC and
Katie Gilder, MPH, RD, LD
If you or someone you know needs more support in taming fears and being more calm, compassionate and confident in their caregiving, please reach out. As I have always said; you do not have to do this alone. Here is a list of our Hope Network, LLC resources:
Weekly Online Group Support for family caregivers is each Wednesday at 6pm CST (USA) and is open to families anywhere. https://beckyhenry.com/group-phone-support/
Monthly Free Online Group Support for family caregivers is the 1st Wednesday of each month at 5pm CST. https://beckyhenry.com/group-phone-support/
HUG Kits provide Hope, Understanding and Guidance for families who are not able to access the individual or group coaching. HUG Kits: https://beckyhenry.com/group-phone-support/ are an affordable way to get the 10 basic concepts she has seen that family caregivers need help with while supporting a loved one in treatment.
Recovery Roadmaps Webinar Series – Becky is co-founder of Recovery Roadmap Specialists with Wendy Wright, CEDS and Ibbits Newhall. The series, “Going From Panic to Plan” is available at https://www.recoveryroadmaps.com/ For your treatment team, we can custom package these topics. We’ve re-recorded them into 12 very short videos and have worksheets that accompany them. Ask us about our Affiliate and Subscription options today.