Writing with your child in recovery for an eating disorder can lead to meaningful conversations and healing, by True U’s Annie Shiel and Merideth VanSant

At True U, we offer a combination of yoga, meditation and “True Talks” for adolescent girls with the goal of encouraging them to explore their feelings and connect with their true selves. Through our partnership with More Love, we’ve adapted our True Talks for parents to use one-on-one with their children where appropriate. True Talks are both a powerful internal exploration and an opportunity for meaningful connection through journaling, and subsequent sharing and discussion.


Explore True Talks with your child

1. Get some notebooks or journals to use for True Talks. You and your child should each have your own.

2. Discuss how you will use True Talks for both self-expression and to build your relationship. You might schedule regular True Talks, or use True Talks during particularly stressful times. We suggest using a combination of both approaches.

3. To begin, sit down with your child to choose a theme and accompanying journal prompt. Make sure you choose something you’d both like to explore and that is developmentally appropriate. Establish “guidelines of engagement” if necessary to ensure a safe space for both of you. Guidelines can include active listening, privacy of the written word (perhaps no peaking in the journal!), all to create an authentic and safe space.

4. Take about 5-10 minutes to write individually, in silence. Any form of self-expression works well. While many people write, others may enjoy drawing or creating a cartoon.

5. Share. Come back together to share your responses. As the adult, we recommend you share first – it goes a long way to take the first step and show some vulnerability. Then ask your child to share. They may find it easier to read their answer as written, or they may choose to discuss the theme. Practice active listening, and try to reflect back what you’ve heard to them so they know they’re heard and understood. If you feel the same way, tell them. Let them know they’re not alone, and you’ve been there too. Sometimes your child may choose not to share, and that’s OK, too! Perhaps instead talk about what it feels like to do an exercise like this, or why they feel that it is/isn’t important.

6. Reflect on the exercise together. How did the exercise itself go? Was it difficult to write down, or did it flow naturally? How did it feel to share? Was the exercise valuable? What might you change or do differently? Would you like to do it again? If so, set an intention to repeat this exercise. Pick a theme and day together for the next True Talk.

True Talk Prompts

Figure out how you will work together on a theme or concept. Here are three ideas for getting started.

1. Ask a question that is meaningful to both of you. Here is one of our favorites:

What are you afraid of?  What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

When you finish, talk about your fears and opportunities. Consider what it would mean if you could support each other in overcoming your fears and pursuing your passions. If appropriate, make a commitment to each other to work on this together.

2. Write a letter to yourself from someone who loves you. This could be a parent or guardian, a grandparent, a sibling, a friend, or even a pet. Write the letter from their perspective.

Once you finish, talk about the letters you wrote. Notice: does this person seem to care if you’re perfect? Did they mention anything about how you look? Talk about the difference between how the people who love us talk to us compared to how we talk to ourselves. Many of us are much more judgmental and even mean to ourselves than anyone else would ever be. How can you support each other in building loving voices for yourselves?

3. Write letters to each other. Sometimes it is difficult to say things out loud, and writing can help us to get our feelings across. If something particularly difficult is going on between you, then take some time to write honestly about the situation from your perspective. Lay some ground rules – namely, use “I feel” statements instead of “you always” or “you should.”

This method may be the trickiest to handle because it can stir up big emotions. But it can also be a helpful way to get down to what your child is really feeling. Only take this on if you feel you can maintain a sense of calm, confident distance from accusations and mean-spirited statements that may pour forth. Or ask your child’s therapist for some guidelines in advance. Remember that your child is seeking a safe way to express feelings, and feelings don’t always tell the truth. With time, we can learn to hear our children’s feelings without taking them personally.


true uAnnie Shiel and Merideth VanSant are the co-founders of True U, an organization working to empower adolescent girls with yoga, mindfulness practices, and honest conversation. Annie is a trauma-informed vinyasa yoga teacher dedicated to using yoga as a tool for healing, self-love, social justice, and empowerment. Merideth holds a Masters of Science in Human Development and uses her professional and personal background to promote resiliency and empower women to build strong and inspired communities. She is a trained power flow and Rocket yoga teacher. To learn more about True U and bring their work to your community, visit www.trueugirls.com.

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