By Daryl Madill, F.E.A.S.T. Volunteer
“When You Know Better, You Do Better”
This is one of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes. Simple and true. Every parent with a new, or even not so new, diagnosis of an eating disorder for their child needs to hear this. I have been providing peer support to parents whose child has an eating disorder for quite a few years now. It is almost universal that parents lament not noticing sooner the ‘signs’ of their loved one struggling, or seeing those behaviors which signal that an eating disorder or disordered eating may be present.
There are comments such as “If I’d only realized sooner…” or “I feel so guilty that she/he has been ill for longer than necessary” or even “I feel it’s my fault that he/she is suffering.” The fact is that I felt that way too, and for a long time. I was searching for a reason, and doubting myself, and serving up heaps of guilt on my own plate, which detracted from my abilities to focus on the most important task at hand: feeding my kid.
Moving your loved one forward and helping them to become nutritionally rehabilitated is hero’s work. It takes more time and effort than anything else you may have done to date. There is no benefit to second-guessing what might have been or berating yourself for not starting refeeding earlier. All your mental and physical energy should rightly be focused on the most important task at hand: getting your precious child to eat.
Don’t waste time on the ‘what ifs’. Reach out for support to other parents with lived experience for their insights and recommendations, research best practices, find resources to help.
When you know better, you do better.
Here are some places to begin to ‘know better’:
Eating Disorders Are Not a Choice (FEAST video)
(FEAST webpage) F.E.A.S.T. Tips for Adding Calories
(FEAST Blog Post-Eva Musby) Tips for Helping Your Child to Eat
(FEAST webpage) High Calorie Meals: Big Impact, Small Footprint
(FEAST Blog Post-Kali) ATDT Forum Topic: Getting a child with an eating disorder