If you wonder whether or not you are taking the right approach with your child’s anorexia, this is the article for you. Let me give you five quick tips for what not to do when helping your child beat anorexia.
1. If you or another extended family member has had an eating disorder, don’t immediately start talking about what helped him or her. Your daughter will feel like you are putting her in a box and will question whether or not you will hear struggles and issues that are unique to her. Plus she will feel like you are saying you already know and understand what she is going through, and the reality is you don’t.
2. In the beginning when she does talk to you about eating issues, just listen. Don’t teach, correct, lecture about food, ask why she just can’t eat; just listen. Great tools are nodding your head, saying in some form you hear what she is saying, a well placed, “Uh huh” can be good too. Err on the side of listening. I cannot stress how important this is. Most important, make sure your gestures and responses are genuine, not canned like you are a robot. Just be tuned in and you will be fine.
3. When arguments arise about food, and they will, don’t allow them to go into eternity. Let her have her say, respond calmly and firmly, re-state the expectation, then communicate without anger that there will be no more discussion. Change the subject, leave the room, stand on your head, whatever. Move on.
4. Increase your awareness of how much you talk about food, weight, body image, calories, etc. When your daughter is around, don’t talk about these things or mention on the phone to a friend how much weight the pastor’s wife has lost. Don’t talk about your own body in negative ways and groan about how you need to lose weight. We often don’t realize ourselves how much we have bought in to the weight and body image frenzy.
5. One of the most common complaints I get from children with an eating disorder is, to some degree she feels she is under a microscope. Don’t mention every eating disordered behavior you see, and don’t watch her constantly even though you are concerned. Yes, you need to be aware, but think how anxious you would be if someone were watching every move you made.