Parents of kids with eating disorders, love at the dinner table

The 5 Most Important Things We Tell Parents of Eating Disorders (ED) Sufferers

The EDTC just celebrated the one year anniversary of our Partial Hospitalization Program! In this year, we’ve learned much about helping parents and families of ED sufferers.

Here are some of the most important messages I like to share with parents and family members. I believe these offer hope that EDs can be successfully treated and life goes on.

1.  It’s not your fault!

  • You didn’t Cause the ED,
  • You can’t Cure the ED (alone, that is!)
  • You can’t Control the ED
  • And, you don’t want to Cater to the ED

2.  Family Based Treatment (FBT) is the most effective way to help your Child with Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa.

 Families are the most important part of the Treatment Team at EDTC! We can’t do treatment without you. Current research tells us that FBT is most successful with teens with EDs. In my experience, families got the short end of the stick when ED treatment began in the 1980’s. Families were isolated and parents were left out of the treatment process, often with blame being placed on them! We have learned this is not helpful. Consistent recovery messages at home and in treatment are essential. Teens need coaching and support for all meals in the early stages of treatment. Parents need support to do this job of remaining engaged at a level beyond their expectations for this stage of life. Families need a safe space to do the work of adjusting and changing. We are here to help the entire family heal.

3.  Get back to the Dining table!

  1. Eating with your child does more than fuel their bodies, it nourishes the heart and soul of the family.
  2. Reconnect with your family and have fun while you are teaching that eating can be an important part of socializing. Have stimulating (non-controversial) conversation. Play word games. Enjoy yourselves.

4.  Learn to live outside the ED

In recovery, it seems that everything is all about the illness! Sometimes, it is hard to think of anything beyond what is directly in front of us. We may feel like we are slogging through the muck and mire. Other times, it is overwhelming to be aware of all the possibilities, so we scare ourselves. This is exactly the time to remind yourselves that there is life outside the ED. Make a list of things you like to do (outside of eating or feeding) and keep it handy. Do things from the list. Put the list (cut up in strips with one item on it) in a jar and grab one until you find one you and your family want to engage in. Be creative, silly and above all, have fun!

5.  The number one cause of relapse is NOT Following the Meal Plan

 The work of recovery is tough and it can be lengthy. It has taken time to develop the ED. It takes time to get well. In the 35+ years I have been doing this work, I can say that following the meal plan for at least a good year past Higher Level of Care treatment is the single most potent predictor of long term recovery from an ED. Sounds easy, right?

It is becoming more of a challenge in the world we live in. Take the time to plan and prepare for your meals. Food is ED recovery medicine; so planned eating is necessary even after the first phases of treatment are complete.

Ann Flosdorf, LCSW, MAED, ADSW, CEDS
Clinical Director of IOP and PHP

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