Do’s & Dont’s
Eating Disorder – Do’s & Dont’s
Guide to Parents of Children with Eating Disorders
Things to Do
- Be kind. Talk to the person when you are calm, not frustrated or emotional. Keep in mind that the person with an eating disorder may feel especially sensitive to real or perceived criticisms, irrational, or rejection.
- Be positive. Mention evidence you have heard or seen in her behavior that suggests disordered eating. Don’t dwell on appearances or weight. Instead talk about health, relationships and mood.
- Be realistic. Realize that she can’t change without motivation and support. You can help her identify the positive reasons for changing and some of the negative consequences of remaining unchanged.
- Be supportive and caring. Be a good listener and don’t give advice unless you are asked to do so. Don’t be put off if she doesn’t immediately appreciate your advice.
- Be patient. Continue to suggest professional help. Don’t pester, but don’t give up either. If the discussion becomes too tense or uncomfortable, take a break and let her know that you will be coming back to her to continue the discussion.
- Ask: “Is doing what you are doing really working to get you what you want?”
- Talk about the advantages of recovery and a normal life.
- Agreed that recovery is hard, but emphasized that many people have achieved it.
- If she is frightened to see a counselor, offer to go with her the first time.
- Realize that recovery is her responsibility, not yours.
- Resist guilt. Do the best you can and then be gentle with yourself.
Things NOT to Do
- Never nag, plead, beg, bribe, threatened, or manipulate. These approaches don’t work.
- Avoid power struggles. Express your own concerns and feelings without expecting her to agree with you.
- Never criticize or shame. Most people with eating disorders already feel ashamed and guilty. You may make it harder for her to open up about her eating disorder.
- Don’t ignore the problem and its warning signs.
- Don’t try to control. Your task is to help her come to her own realization that some things must change.
- Don’t waste time trying to reassure her that she is not fat. Feeling fat is rarely a rational assumption. It may be best to tell her you understand why she feels that way, while also reassuring her that you do not see her like that.
- Don’t get involved in endless conversations about weight, food, or calories. These discussions are usually unproductive. Help her identify the consequences of her choices and the positive benefits of change.
- Don’t give advice unless asked.
- Don’t be frustrated if she is not ready to heed your advice.
- Don’t say, “You are too thin.” What you intend to be a warning she may see as a sign that she is achieving her goal.
- Don’t say, “It’s good you have gained weight.” Remember, weight gain may feel like a failure to her.
- Don’t let her always decide when, what, or where you will eat. Try to keep your familie’s normal meal schedule. Constantly adapting to the demands of her eating disorder may keep her from recognizing that something is seriously wrong.
- Don’t ignore stolen food and evidence of purging. Insist on responsibility and emphasize that the disorder is leading her to make choices that are not like her healthy self.