How to Talk to Your Daughter About Anorexia Nervosa
Talking to your child about difficult subjects can be more than a challenge – it can be an ordeal. Few subjects are more personal and difficult to broach than mental health disorders like anorexia nervosa. Typically, the first people to become aware of a teen’s issues with anorexia nervosa are their parents, coaches, teachers or friends. When encouraging a teen to learn more about the benefits of anorexia nervosa treatment, it is normal to anticipate an emotionally charged conversation – and reciting a list of statistics about adolescent eating disorders is hardly going to make it easier. However, taking the time to mentally prepare for a difficult conversation about next steps and when to search for anorexia treatment centers is necessary. To help parents and loved ones begin this vital conversation, we’ve highlighted a few tips below.
5 Important Tips for Talking to Adolescents About Anorexia Nervosa
1. Be Prepared
Most teenagers don’t have the resources to understand how their disordered eating patterns are an issue. Gather resources that will help them understand the severity of an anorexia nervosa diagnosis. This will help them to understand what they’ve been experiencing and learn more about the benefits of early intervention. Additionally, there is a myriad of potential blogs, books, and pamphlets that can help explain the role that adolescent anorexia treatment facilities will play in the recovery process.
2. Use Compassion and Understanding
It's crucial to pick the right time and place when your daughter will be calm and receptive. Begin the conversation is a private space when everyone has adequate time to speak openly and honestly. Parents should approach the subject of anorexia nervosa treatment in a caring and non-confrontational manner. In a calm, caring fashion, avoid making accusations and instead and focus on disordered eating behaviors that have been easily noticeable at home and school.
This is perhaps the most important step in the entire process and without good listening skills, there is a chance that parents could end up pushing their teen further away. Give her plenty of time to respond to what you’ve said, and don’t interrupt. Listen carefully to each response in an open and non-judgmental manner. Stay calm, and don’t simply put her concerns or statements aside – and take special care to avoid conflict. If she simply won’t admit there is a problem, parents should restate their previous concerns and leave themselves open as supportive listeners.
4. Stay Open-Minded and Validate Her Feelings
Periodically, you should summarize what your daughter has been saying (as well as what you’ve been saying). Even though she may not admit that there's a problem, her feelings can't be "wrong," so make an effort to understand what she's saying and validate her feelings while maintaining your position. Parents should once again restate their concerns and explain that anorexia nervosa treatment is essential for long-term recovery.
5. Always Finish with an Action Step
Parents should have an action step in mind, like searching for anorexia treatment centers, before beginning the conversation. When they feel comfortable, they can share this action step with the teen. If the teen is responsive, parents can take the time to research anorexia treatment facilities that focus on adolescent care with their child. Offer to make an appointment with them and to accompany them for an initial consultation at multiple anorexia treatment centers if necessary.
You should also try your hardest to use “I” statements instead of using “you” language. For example, “I have concerns that the eating habits I see are affecting your health.” As always, try to avoid blaming her or make accusatory statements like, “You never eat and you’re too skinny.” These kinds of statements are always counterproductive.
Don’t Wait – Early Intervention Saves Lives
Approaching such a sensitive subject can be very intimidating for most parents. But considering the potential health consequences of anorexia nervosa and the proven fact that the earlier the intervention, the better the chances for recovery, it’s best to hold this conversation earlier rather than later. Stay positive – anorexia nervosa is treatable. You can make a difference in your daughter's life today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: CARRIE HUNNICUTT
With 20 years of behavioral health business development experience, Carrie combines world-class marketing, media, public relations, outreach and business development with a deep understanding of client care and treatment. Her contributions to the world of behavioral health business development – and particularly eating disorder treatment– go beyond simple marketing; she has actively developed leaders for her organizations and for the industry at large.