Dear Parents of Children with Eating Disorders,
I’ve wanted to write this letter to you guys for a pretty long time. I can’t imagine the stress you’re under right now, especially when the child you’ve loved for years is suddenly refusing to eat or is regurgitating in your porcelain john . I bet some days you wonder why the hell your child is acting like this. Why your child is hurting you and the family. Why your child just can’t stop. . .
Those are all thoughts that plague the minds of parents with ED children. I know because they are the very same questions that still haunt my parents to this very day. You need to realize that your child is suffering from a disease and just like any other disease, they can’t control what it is doing to their body. When they throw a violent fit when you place a plate of food in front of them, it is not your child’s actions, it is caused directly by the disease. Or when you catch your child secretly exerting themselves, you must also remember that it is not the child consciously making the decision to do so, it is the disease.
Though you may be boiling with anger and frustration when your child constantly does these things, it is imperative that you use every ounce of your willpower to not let those feelings out on your sick child. I mean, if your child had any other serious disease like leukemia, lymphoma, or cardiomyopathy would you lash out at them for it? Of course not! Like any good parent, you would comfort your child when tears stream down their face or when the emotional & physical pain is just too much for them bear. That is also exactly what you need to do when your child is struggling with their eating disorder behaviors. You need to go over to them and hug them. Whisper in their ear how much you love them. Tell them that they are brave. That they are strong. That you are going to do everything you possibly can to help them.
Being a teen who has struggled with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa since she was 8 years old, I can’t tell you how much this would have helped me. When I was in the deepest depth of my disease, I honestly did long to get better. I knew that living the way my eating disorder wanted me to live was just a slow, agonizing form of suicide. My parents though were unsure of how to help me and didn’t receive much support from the clinicians that were caring for me at the time. They didn’t know that punishing me for my disease, when I really just need comfort, was doing more harm than good. They just didn’t know and I hold nothing against them for that.
That is why I am asking you right now to please stop thinking of your child’s eating disorder as a conscious choice they made, because believe me, no one would chose to suffer like that. Your child right now needs your hugs, your encouragement, and your love more than ever. They are sick and like every other ill child, they require the empathy and comfort of the two most important figures in their life – their mom and dad.
Thank you for reading this and remember to stay strong!