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What CAN Parents Do to Help?

When a member of the family — child or adult — is sick, parents are expected to research and pursue the treatment they need and to take on the responsibility of caregiving until the patient is well. Yet parents are not just looking to have the diagnosed illness resolved but to have their son or daughter get on with their unique growth and developing personality. Parents are stewards not just of healing sickness but of nurturing a thriving family, relationships, and future for all in the household.

Unfortunately, when our son or daughter develops an eating disorder, parents are too often still told what we should NOT do. In addition, we may actually be discouraged from taking on the role of caregiver, and even be blamed as having contributed to the development of the illness despite over a decade since those myths were overturned. At F.E.A.S.T. , we believe in parent involvement as key to the successful treatment of eating disorders, and prefer to concentrate on what parents CAN do to help their children recover.

Parents CAN…

• provide a safe environment for recovery in our homes
• seek and evaluate clinical treatment options
• take control of eating and food until the patient is able to do so independently
• insist on effective treatment whether the patient is living at home, in hospital, or in long term residential care
• quit or cut back on other obligations to concentrate on supporting our loved one
•support the other parent (s) emotionally and practically
• insist on treatment that ensures full nutrition and normalizing eating behaviors
• put boundaries on eating disorder and activity behaviors in our homes
• offer financial assistance while our loved one is out of work
• refuse to financially support a loved one who is not in effective treatment
• refuse to support ineffective treatment
• become educated in eating disorders by consulting evidence-based experts and reading widely in professional and lay literature
• form educated opinions on treatment
• advocate for our family member with treatment providers, funders, school, and employers
• insist on communication with the treatment team
• be part of the treatment team
• pay for treatment and keep a patient insured
• educate extended relatives and community about the current science in eating disorders
• take care of siblings and extended family affected by the illness
• offer emotional support during the suffering of eating disorder recovery
• give up activities and habits that conflict with our loved one’s recovery
• insist on patients signing waivers for our communication with treatment providers
• put aside conflicts with spouses or other family members to present a common voice to the patient
• speak out in the media about how eating disorders affect the whole family
• get involved with advocacy and education in the eating disorder world
• make personal changes based on what we learn about eating disorders
• offer support to other families struggling with this disease
• seek treatment for ourselves if we have illnesses or eating disordered behaviors

  • Believe in full recovery and never, ever give up.