Eating Disorder Treatment: Tips for Parents

Treating an eating disorder is far from a straightforward process, both for the clinicians and for the sufferer’s family. Many, though by no means all, people who suffer from an eating disorder are young and still live at home with their families. This makes eating disorder treatment a family effort, requiring everyone to help.


Eating disorders are some of the most dangerous psychological diseases in young people, so knowing your child has one can be frightening. However, it’s important not to overreact. Yelling and punishing your child for their behaviors isn’t going to help. Your child truly does not understand that they need to eat to stay alive, or possibly they don’t care. They are not reasoning, and it’s up to you to do that for them.


Instead of fighting, set boundaries and stand by them. Your child’s doctors and therapists will create a treatment plan, which will vary on the type of disorder. If the meal is not followed, nothing else happens. All other privileges are based on complying with the treatment plan. You don’t fight about it, and you don’t yell; you simply stand firm on this.


Model healthy eating behaviors in yourself. Many parents, especially women, don’t realize they are modeling an unhealthy relationship with their children’s food. Don’t talk about specific foods being “bad” or that you are “naughty” to have a treat. It would be best if you also didn’t mention that you need to “make up for” eating something by exercising more. These comments may seem ordinary and harmless, but they foster a mindset that eating food is wrong in some way.


Many children undergoing eating disorder treatment are resistant. It’s not their fault. The disease has a hold on their mind; it takes over. It’s your job as their parent to ensure they stay on track with their treatment and rebuild a positive relationship with food.