Having a conversation with the parents of someone who is struggling with an eating disorder can be very challenging and delicate. I had to learn that from first-hand experience.
Why can’t you just stop?
Why is recovery taking so long?
Look at this friend of yours and how confident she is in her body and how full of joie de vivre she is. Why can’t you be like this?
Just eat already?
Why are you not yet performing on a level like healthy people?
Why are you doing this to yourself?
Can’t you see what you’re doing to us?
Sentences like this are very common among parents or relatives because they just don’t understand. And how could they, right? They’re extremely privileged not to live in this cage we our locked in. It is completely understandable that they are frustrated, worried and maybe even a bit annoyed.
This is why the dialogue between families is so crucial. Having their support often makes a huge difference in recovery and the way towards a stable, healthy life.
The one thing that I would like to tell all parents is to not pressure their children too much. Of course, there has to be a certain level of challenging your child, but it should always be done in a very loving way. Tell them why you’d like them to eat and why you don’t intend to make them fat (which is what we often think!). Tell them you fear for their health and life and can’t stand the thought of losing them.
Don’t tell them that they are so skinny that they’re hardly noticeable anymore as this reinforces the eating disordered thoughts and produces a feeling of pride and accomplishment.
And my most important advice is to connect with your children beyond the constant subject of food, eating, weight, etc. Notice them as a person, ask them about their likes and dislikes. Start a dialogue and just show them how much you love them. The omnipresent subject of recovery causes so much stress and resistance inside that conversing about something completely different is a huge relief and much needed break from all the pressure!
Tell me, what would you like your parents said to you or acted like?