Parenting and eating disorders have a complicated relationship. Parents are a part of both the ecosystem in which an eating disorder develops and a part of the ecosystem that enables a child to fully recover from an eating disorder. We have two choices when a child develops an eating disorder: we can stay the same and hope the child recovers, or we can learn new parenting skills so that we become better parents.
Almost all parents are loving and mean well. We all do our very best to bring our kids up in a world that is frequently overwhelming and confusing. No parent sets out in life to create an environment in which eating disorders thrive, and yet sometimes, without meaning to and because we aren’t aware of the conditions that can encourage eating disorder, we make mistakes.
The good news is that all of us have the capacity to learn and expand our parenting toolbox. No matter how old your child is when you find out they have an eating disorder, you can still make changes in how you parent to support their recovery.
Here are some key ideas that you should know about parenting and eating disorders:
- Get help. This is hard. Take your time, and find the support you need to be the best parent you can during your child’s recovery.
- Stretch yourself. Take yourself outside of your emotional comfort zone and learn some new parenting skills so you can help your child’s recovery. Your child must stretch themselves during treatment, and it really helps to have parents stretching themselves, too.
- Stop dieting. It’s really important to learn the hazards of dieting and to stop trying to reduce your own body size. It’s going to be very hard for your child to recover from an eating disorder while living in a household in which dieting is ongoing.