Center for Growth / Parenting Strategies in Philadelphia - helping a child gain positive attention while recovering from an eating disorder . . .
Negative Attention The eating disorder often gives adolescents and young adults a sick role in the family. The adolescents and young adults in treatment usually resent the extra attention they are getting from parents due to the illness. They report feeling that they are being “pestered” or “controlled” when their parents or friends attempt to get them to eat. However, through the process of therapy and self-discovery, many people recognize that they in fact have very mixed feelings about the extra attention the illness brings them. The fear of recovery and losing their sick role in the family or group of friends is often very frightening for them. Losing attention, even negative attention, often causes a lot of anxiety. I want to reiterate that this is often unconscious and it is a pattern that develops when people lack the ability to express themselves or have their needs met in a healthier way.
Ways to support your child who is recovering from Anorexia
* Talk with your child about the ways in which attention feels good to her. When does he or she feel most supported by family members? When is she or he most worried about family members?
* Lots of positive attention
* Talk with child about the loss of her eating disorder, and what she or he fears giving up
* Explore with your child ways to cope anxiety
* Share with child the ways in which other family members have dealt with their anxiety
* Model healthy eating behavior
* Don’t make negative or positive statements about other people’s weight
* Attend any family sessions that the therapist asks you too attend
* Get professional help for yourself, it shows them that it is ok to ask for help and can only assist you in the process of supporting them.
* Don’t blame them for their illness.
* Don’t talk with them in detail about your personal problems. It is ok to inform them of certain situations, but make sure they are not put in the role of your therapist or confidant.
* Let them know that they are not a burden
* Take a look at your expectations of them and make sure they are not feeling too much pressure to be “the perfect child”
If your child has an eating disorder, we strongly encourage you to work closely with a therapist as well as your child. Treatment is a whole family experience. The risk of "failure" in supporting a child is too severe. Eating disorders left untreated can end in death.