If you are the parent of a teenager with an eating disorder, your love and support can make a huge difference in making sure that your child makes steady progress toward recovery. However, being able to do this is easier said than done. Here are a few tips from the eating disorder residential program at Canopy Cove for how you, as a parent, can help your child to recover. Look for Part 2 of our advice to parents in our next blog for more practical tips.
Part 1. Preliminary Tips
1. Teens experience stress and pressure. Try to gauge how your adolescent is managing anxiety.
If you remember your own teenage years, you know that it is a rough and difficult transition time for almost anyone. Today’s teens are facing more difficulty and pressure than ever before. The stress of adolescence manifests itself in different ways with different young people. Rates of depression are skyrocketing, and eating disorders are becoming more prevalent. Therefore, extend loads of compassion and understanding to your teenager, and leave them in no doubt that you are their greatest ally and supporter.
2. Create a safe environment for communication.
It’s a well-known fact that teenagers tend to clam up and become less communicative as they encounter the challenges of growing up. This requires you, as a parent, to be even more purposeful than ever to ensure that you don’t lose touch with your child. If you have open and safe lines of communication between you and your teen, then you will not only be able to hear from them and know what they’re going through, but they will also be able to hear from you and receive your counsel.
3. Teach your kids to exercise discernment about what they listen to.
Rather than wringing your hands and feeling helpless about the way your teen is listening to pop culture’s view of how their body should look, teach them from an early age to exercise discernment and reject messages that are not accurate or healthy.
It can sound like this: When your child is 11 or 12 years old, pull them aside and kindly say, “Hey Sarah, you’re growing up fast. When you were little, we picked your books and movies for you, but now that you’re older, you’re going to be reading and listening to things that I haven’t read before. I want you to do something for me. Please don’t ever just swallow all the messages that you hear. Approach everything you read and watch with a critical evaluation. Ask yourself, ‘Is this accurate? Do I agree with this? Are there some parts of this that I reject?’”
Your child is old enough to realize that’s a good idea and setting this framework in their thinking can reap invaluable results in ALL areas. In the specific area of eating disorders, you can also preemptively teach them to reject the messages from the media about how thin a girl should look.
4. As a parent, do not comment on your child’s weight or looks.
Or anyone else’s, for that matter. Most individuals who develop eating disorders come from homes that place a high value on thinness, outward appearances, and often, compulsive exercise. Don’t comment on friends who’ve lost or gained weight, don’t diet in front of your kids, or comment on your child’s looks. This is challenging but remain mindful of your own issues with food or weight.
Here at Canopy Cove, we believe that recovery is possible, but it’s not always easy to know how to give the best help to your child. Sometimes residential treatment is the best option for a genuine turnaround that leads to a true recovery. Contact us today to learn more about the opportunity of on-site eating disorder recovery.