For many parents, discovering that their child has an eating disorder can come as quite a shock. Parents want to do everything they can to support their child, but often can’t find the right words to say. As parents look to give their child support, here is advice on what to say with a child with anorexia—and what not to say.
Do: Have an Honest Conversation
Talking with children, especially teenagers, can often feel like an uphill battle for parents. Trying to relate to their struggles and what they’re going through becomes a daunting task. Often those who suffer with anorexia have difficulties identifying disordered eating patterns. Starting an honest conversation about their experiences can go a long way.
While being confronted with the possibility of an eating disorder, a child or adolescent may appear guarded, angry, or even confrontational. However, staying patient with them as they process their feelings is important. By remaining calm you can ensure you don’t come across as assigning blame or passing judgment on them.
Don’t: Talk About Their Appearance
One of many factors contributing to someone developing anorexia revolves around their appearance. They may be trying to fit into society’s idealized image of what slim, beautiful, and strong should look like, and they agonize over every little detail of their appearance and yearn for a sense of control over how they look. Focusing on their appearance, may accidentally reinforce the negative body image.
Do: Admit You Don’t Have All the Answers
When talking with your child, empathize with what they’re going through and recognize that you don’t know what they’re experiencing. The ideal body shape and size changes over generations. Although body image is not always to blame for anorexia, adolescents and teenagers can encounter body shaming, disordered food relationships that affect their eating habits. Emphasize that you are there to listen and help them get the support they need.
Don’t: Take It Personally If They Don’t Open Up Right Away
Talking about their struggles with anorexia can be overwhelming for most teens. It’s an assortment of complicated feelings, thoughts, relationships, and body image issues that can be hard to put into words. Often, the initial conversation may not yield the breakthroughs you hoped for, but it does begin to lay the groundwork for future discussions. Stay patient and supportive, and let them open up when ready.
Do: Seek and Heed the Advice of Their Treatment Team
If you have taken your child to our eating disorder treatment center in Anderson, IN, you have unique resources to help with their recovery. They have experience with children of different ages that have struggled with anorexia, know how to approach difficult conversations, and understand what it takes to provide the support they need in their recovery.
Selah House has provided countless teens with the care and support they need to win their battle with anorexia and get their lives back on track. If you or someone you love is struggling with anorexia or another eating disorder, please don’t hesitate. Contact our treatment center at 765.442.3551 and learn more about our approach to eating disorder treatments today.