What if it's my Parent or Grandparent who has an Eating Disorder?
Some of the most heartbreaking messages we receive, are from the children of elder people with eating disorders.
Many adult children find themselves at an absolute loss as to how to support a parent going through an eating disorder – particularly if the person themselves seem reluctant to face up to the illness or to seek or accept help.
Here are a few ways in which you can look to play a supportive role in that person’s wellbeing and recovery.
Above and beyond everything else, remember that you must do only that which you can without it coming at the expense of your own physical and mental health.
1. It’s ok to tell them how you’re feeling and what you need. Expressing your concern or fears or sadness is not something we discourage. Indeed, you do deserve to be heard and to have your needs understood.
2. Stay mentally and physically healthy. By only focusing on your ill parent/grandparent, you won’t be helping anyone. Your parent or grandparent would want you to have a full life. Make sure you keep up any hobbies and that you keep socialising and seeing friends.
3. Certainly try new approaches and avenues, but do also be realistic – and yes, be prepared for it not to work. Eating disorders are complex and irrational, so what may work one day, may not work the next.
4. It’s ok to feel anger and even betrayal or hurt. Even though deep down you may realise they didn’t choose to be ill, it’s still ok to feel angry and resentful. Dulling your emotions won’t help anyone, so again, one more reason to focus on what your wellbeing needs are.
5. Make sure you have a good support system around you. As mentioned, being able to express yourself is key. Be as open as you can with your partner, siblings, a friend or your other parent.
6. Stay informed – but not obsessed. Lots of our concerned community of elder children and grandchildren say they do lots of research and listening – which helps greatly. But try not to let the world of eating disorders take over your life.
7. Reassure your loved one that you’re there for the journey with them, and that you empathise – but don’t let the illness make you complicit.
*Contact us if your family is in this difficult scenario and you think you'd benefit from the support of our family therapist.
- May 2022