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Parent Coaching for Eating Disorders


If your child has an eating disorder, then parent coaching can help you navigate their recovery.

There’s no way to avoid the fact that eating disorders are hard on families. They’re hard on the person who has them, and they’re hard on siblings and extended family. But let’s not forget that eating disorders are really hard on parents.

An eating disorder can make parents feel as if they have failed (they haven’t), and as if the future is bleak and hopeless (it’s not). You might feel angry, sad, irritated, furious, and hopeless. You may feel betrayed, persecuted, or manipulated. Whatever you feel right now, it’s normal. And it can get better.

Exercise: Take a minute to write down your feelings about your child’s eating disorder.

If your child has an eating disorder, you’re in a tough spot. On the one hand, your child’s behavior is terrifying and you desperately want it to stop. On the other hand, getting into power struggles over food can hurt your child’s eating disorder recovery.

So what can parents do if they have a child who has an eating disorder? Lots of things! But most of them are not intuitive or natural. It’s time to learn some new skills and try some new approaches to parenting.

Coaching can help

This is why coaching can be so helpful. While a therapist will dig deep into your child’s history and the meaning behind their eating disorder, you are on the front line with your child every day. You need some immediate coaching to help you make decisions that can positively (or negatively) impact your child’s recovery.

It sounds daunting, but don’t worry! You can totally do this! Parent coaching for parents who have kids with eating disorders is structured so that you have a safe space to share your greatest fears and get some practical tips and scripts for handling the challenges of recovery.

Parent coaching is a solution-oriented approach to eating disorder recovery. With coaching you will have access to:

Information: Get answers to your questions about eating disorders. What are they? Why do they happen? How long will it take to recover?

Understanding: Decode your child’s behavior and learn how to interact with them in a way that minimizes stress and optimizes your home for recovery.

Conflict Resolution: Learn how to resolve conflict with your child over eating and other struggles.

Responses: Get ideas and scripts for how you can talk to your child about food, weight, and eating disorders.

Techniques: Learn about the science-backed eating disorder treatment approaches Health at Every Size® and Intuitive Eating

Recommendations: Find the books, articles, and resources that are available to help you navigate recovery with your child.

Parent coaching can make an immediate impact on your ability to parent your child through eating disorder recovery. Most parents get what they need in 1-5 sessions. Of course we can continue working together beyond that if you prefer ongoing support, or I can just stay “on call” and be available for you as needed.

Parent coaching can help your child recover

A lot of parents assume that if their child has an eating disorder, then it’s the child who needs treatment. And it’s definitely true that your child should be treated by qualified eating disorder specialists.

But if you ask any eating disorder specialist, they will tell you that treatment is most effective when the whole family, and especially the parents, get involved.

This is because eating disorders are biopsychosocial disorders. This breaks down to three components:

Bio (biological) There are biological components of eating disorders that may be addressed with medication.

Psycho (psychological) Eating disorders are psychological disturbances and are often treated with psychotherapy, counseling, and coaching.

Social: the social environment, beginning with the family, often shapes eating disorder development and recovery.

The third element, social, is where parents can impact recovery.

There was a time when parents were blamed completely for eating disorders. In fact, many parents were told to just “stay out of” eating disorder treatment. Parents recall horror stories of being told they had “done enough” already and should just stay away.

We now know that this approach is rarely effective. In fact, it’s best if parents are involved in treatment and recovery. The key, however, is to learn how to be involved appropriately.

Appropriate involvement in eating disorder recovery

Most parents spend more time with their child during recovery than the child’s treatment team. So it makes sense that when parents know how to help it makes a huge impact.

But how does a parent know what is appropriate? There are so many moving parts to eating disorder recovery. You want your child to stop having an eating disorder, but what can you do?

For example, parents are involved in feeding and eating with the child. Should they talk about food? Insist on a clean plate? Cater to rigid dietary restrictions? Then there’s body talk. How can parents talk to kids about bodies without triggering them? This can be tricky, and it helps to become educated about your child’s unique needs as well as eating disorders in general.

There is no single path to recovery, and there’s no single rule book for eating disorder recovery. But there is a lot that parents can learn about eating disorders and parenting to help. And that’s what parent coaching for eating disorder recovery is all about.

Ginny Jones is a Parent Coach who helps parents handle kids’ food & body issues. Learn more

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