It’s likely that when you held your baby girl in your arms for the first time, that you could have never predicted that she would struggle with an eating disorder. The parenting manuals do not prepare you for supporting someone as they battle a life-threatening illness, which many still mistakenly perceive as “vain” or a “choice.”
There is also a common misperception that somehow parents and families are “to blame” for their child developing an eating disorder. It’s possible that you’ve struggled with feeling like you may have contributed to your daughter’s illness, or wishing that you would have noticed the signs earlier.
I want you to know that you did not cause your daughter to develop an eating disorder. Her illness is not your fault. Eating disorders are complex illnesses that are believed to be influenced by a variety of biological, genetic, and psychological factors. Families and parents do not cause eating disorders and they can be incredible supports in the recovery process.
Additionally, you did the best that you could at the time-with the knowledge and resources that you had. It can be tough to know what to say or do when your child begins demonstrating signs of an eating disorder. It can also be hard to recognize early warning signs, as often parents have little to no education about eating disorders. You deserve to practice compassion for yourself.
It’s also important to note that your daughter did not choose to develop an eating disorder, but she can make the choice to work on her recovery. We also know that family support can be so helpful for people in recovery. Your support and encouragement of her as she battles this illness is crucial.
Further, it’s crucial that you practice self-care and work to be kind to yourself. Supporting someone in recovery can be difficult and emotionally tiring at times. Work to ensure that you have support in place for yourself, as you cannot effectively help your child if you are not taking care of yourself.
As an eating disorder therapist, I’ve had the privilege to talk to many parents whose lives have been greatly impacted by their daughter’s eating disorders. I am always amazed by the vast love, support, and courage that they demonstrate in walking by their daughter’s side as she works on her recovery, each day.
To the parents whose children are struggling with eating disorders-the ones who do everything in their power to help and support them in their recovery. I cannot begin to say how much you inspire me. Even if things feel tough right now, know that full recovery is possible.
With access to evidence-based treatment and support, people with eating disorders can recover and have productive and meaningful lives. There is hope!
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer has a private practice specializing in working with adolescents and adults struggling with eating disorders (including binge eating disorder, anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, and OSFED), body image issues, anxiety, and survivors of trauma. Jennifer provides eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD. Jennifer offers eating disorder recovery coaching via phone/Skype. Connect with Jennifer through her website at www.jenniferrollin.com
This article was originally featured on Jennifer Rollin’s blog.