8 Tips for Supporting Family Members with Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are still a major problem among teenagers and young adults. When a family member is diagnosed with the disorder, the road to acceptance and recovery can be long. Here are eight tips for helping them and the rest of your family to get through it.

Teenagers usually don’t communicate everything to their parents. It is the nature of being young. To bridge that gap it is up to parents to keep the lines open and spend quality time with their children. That is one way to catch eating disorders before they get out of control.

1. Acceptance – A parent’s first reaction is that their child is sick because of something that they did or didn’t do. That leads to denial of the real problem behind the eating disorder. Without any reservations, believe what the doctor says and admit that your child, parent, sibling or spouse has an eating disorder.

2. Be willing to discuss their feelings – You may be thinking about how this is affecting you but the person with the eating disorder is the primary concern. Listen to what they have to say even if it is negative. If you need to, use a mediator such as a psychiatrist.

3. Don’t play the blame game – The last thing that your family member needs to hear is you arguing with other family members about who is responsible for this situation. Eating disorders go far beyond simply eating or not eating. There are other emotional issues that tie into it. Sometimes, placing blame only drives the family member further into themselves and away from you.

4. Take advice from the professionals – They have dealt with eating disorders longer than you have. Follow their recommendations for helping your family member to heal and get on the road to recovery.

5. Show them affection – There will be time for talk in therapy sessions. Show that you care with hugs, kisses and a helping hand. Give them room to move while they are recovering.

6. Remove junk food and comfort foods from the house – These are foods that they have previously binged on or are tempting to them. Institute better eating habits for the entire family so your family member doesn’t feel singled out at meals.

7. Recognize that there will be tough roads ahead - Just like with alcoholism or drug abuse, the affected person won’t always want to get well. And, they can relapse.

8. Learn to socialize without food – Spend time together as a family where food is not the focus. Go to a movie, get a pedicure or simply take a walk in the park.

Eating disorders are hard on everyone but especially the person with it. Learn to support them in every way that you can.