How can Parents Practice Self-Care During A Child’s Recovery?

I wanted to address the issue of the burnt out mother or father dealing with an eating disorder stricken child. Just how can parents practice self-care during a child’s recovery? 

On June 1st it’s International Parent’s Day! I want to address the issue of the burnt-out parent dealing with an eating-disordered child. Just how can parents practice self-care during a child’s recovery

So often the focus is on how parents and guardians can help their child in recovery, but we forget that they need to practice self-care too. 

I can’t begin to imagine the horror of watching your child go through an eating disorder. I’m only twenty-six and my maternal instinct is far from developed. But, in hindsight, I put my parents through hell. Or, rather, the eating disorder did. 

It’s no one’s fault that they develop an eating disorder. Just like it’s no one’s fault if they develop a chronic or terminal illness. Yet I’ve heard so many parents blame themselves almost entirely. It’s human nature to blame ourselves for things far out of our control, especially when it involves our loved ones. And I can only imagine that as a parent this increases tenfold.

If we’re involved in the care of others we often forget to take into account our own health too. It may sound selfish but how can you breathe life into someone else without first taking a breath yourself? This is why it’s so important that parents and guardians take time out to practice self-care. 


How to practice self-care during your child’s recovery.

Find support for yourself.

Don’t be ashamed to get yourself a therapist or join a support group. There are many out there for parents who just need to talk with others in a similar situation. Understandably, talking face to face might not be your thing. If this is the case, there are many groups available on Facebook that can connect you with peer support.

FEAST is one such place where the families of sufferers can go to discuss their issues. It provides online communities, self-help tips, events, and even a blog with all the latest information.

Keeping the lines of communication as open as possible.

It’s difficult to talk about an eating disorder, and I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t. I struggled a great deal opening up to my parents as a teenager, and this feeling hasn’t gone away. What has changed is my age and understanding of the illness. I can honestly say that this time round I’m far more honest about what is happening inside my head.

Find a way to open the lines of communication with your child whether you live with them or not. It won’t be comfortable and it won’t be pleasant, but it’s necessary. Honesty is the best policy.

Image from Harli Marten

Talk yourself out of self-blame.

You can not control mental illness, nor can you control another person’s response to those illnesses. You did not cause the eating disorder, and blaming yourself will only harm your own mental and physical health.

It isn’t always easy to convince ourselves, but with professional health and support, there is progress to be made.

Understand that the person and the eating disorder are separate.

Parents, guardians, and carers; If your child is being an ass to you during their eating disorder, please know that it’s not them. The eating disorder and the person are two different things. How they react is often out of our control. They don’t understand it but it’s an overwhelming fear and compulsion that drives them to do and say horrible things.

That being said, they need to take responsibility for how they act! They need to understand that it’s not okay to allow the anorexia nervosa to allow them to do that! There is a certain amount of control they need to try and take back to prevent themselves from being twisted into hateful gremlins.

Educate yourself. 

It won’t help you understand completely, but it will give you enough knowledge to work off. Eating disorders are so complex that not even we really understand them, so don’t beat yourself up if you get frustrated over the whole thing.

There are so many resources online and most likely at your local GP office or treatment center. Even try the library for resources!

Take time away.

I don’t mean this as awful as it sounds. If you live with your child then it can be increasingly stressful and hostile to be in the same home together, especially at the beginning. Getting away from the situation will allow you to breathe and recharge without the presence of the eating disorder looming overhead

Do not feel like you are being selfish by taking time to yourself; this is basic self-care, and self-care is not selfish!

Go for coffee with a friend. Take a weekend away if resources allow. Go shopping. Go for a walk. Just separate yourself from the eating disorder for at least a few hours. This will also help in reducing your stress somewhat which is vital if you want to maintain your own mental health.

Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Nourish yourself, exercise well, get enough rest and take up relaxing hobbies!

Eating enough and eating the right food is vital in order to regulate our blood sugar, weight, and even moods. If you forget to feed yourself properly in the process of trying to feed your child, then you aren’t doing yourself much good. On top of that remember to keep yourself hydrated!

Try to maintain a proper sleep schedule and get enough rest every night. If you’re having problems sleeping due to anxiety I, personally, see nothing wrong with a natural sleeping pill if needed. If you don’t want to try the medication route then have a look at some of these tips to help you get over to sleep naturally at night.

If you are able to exercise then you have one of the world’s best natural de-stressors right at your fingertips! Get out for a walk in nature, go for a hike, go to a class at the local gym or even do some home yoga. Exercising releases endorphins and helps us release any pent-up tension. Not only that but by maintaining an exercise routine, or even if you’re taking it up for the first time, you’re doing something for yourself and the maintenance of your body. It’s almost like taking back a little bit of control that you may feel has been lost to your child’s eating disorder.


Is there anything else you would add to this list?

For parents out there who are struggling with a child’s eating disorder, what have you done to help yourself?

** If you like what I do please consider donating to my KO-FI fund. I’d like to be able to reach more of an audience so I can potentially grow this blog to be much more than it currently is. I also hope to bring freebies and eventually toolkits to you all as a way of saying thank you for your support.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

50 comments

  1. You’ve got some GREAT points here – especially the idea that you have to take care of yourself if you’re going to take care of someone else! Thank you for sharing

  2. Hi. Thank you for reaching out, I’m very sorry to hear about your daughter’s friends. My advice would be to speak with your daughter’s friend first and try and convince her to speak with her parents. Tell her that you know they would support her and that you’re there too should she ever need it. If you go directly to her parents it could drive a wedge between your daughter and her, and you don’t want that.

    If she refuses to go to her mum and dad, as an adult wanting to protect a minor, I would then speak with her parents. Make sure and tell her that if she doesn’t open up to them, you have to because you care about her. She might not be happy, but she’s a teenager and she will thank you years down the line.

    I hope this at least helps a little. If you want to speak to me directly, you can contact me on any of my socials, on email me anytime.

    Kindest regards

    Chloe

  3. This post actually comes to me at a time I need it, my daughters best friend slept over the other night and my daughter came into me at about 2am crying and saying she needed me but couldn’t say why. She said it was a secret her best friend had told her, I told her that sometimes sharing a secret is better for your friend than keeping it (I had my suspicions of what it would be) I encouraged my daughter to get her friend to open up to her mum to trust her mum (I know her parents so well and know they wold support and love her), she has not been able to convince her friend to open up to her family so now I feel I have to be the one to tell her mum as this can not go on unseen and unspoken of. Can I ask you advice? I am very close with my daughters friend, she is 15 and they have been best friends since they were six, she calls me her other mum, would I be better to speak to this girl first and encourage her to open up to her mum, or should I go straight to her mum? I know you won’t have an expert answer, but I don’t want to close of trust with this sweet girl but this needs to be addressed asap? Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you for linking up #ABloggingGoodTime

  4. It’s so easy to forget to look after ourselves when others need us, especially children. But the truth is you need to refuel so that you’re able to give you best at all times. I, personally, have no idea how I would manage a child!

  5. This is a great post. Your posts are so unique and thought provoking.
    Thank you for sharing with us!
    Alyssa
    THESACREDSPACEAP.COM

  6. This is such a helpful post for parents whose children have an eating disorder. This post was also a reminder to myself that it’s okay & also necessary to take care of myself. I have a 3 year old daughter so most of my time is focused on her & I often forget to look after myself.

    Karalee
    Tales of Belle

  7. This is fantastic. So many people don’t have supportive parents, but so many do and it’s a great perspective to show how parents need support too. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Wow! I’m blown away.
    Not many people acknowledge that the parents too need care.
    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Oh, Ruth, reading this made me hurt for you. I am so, so sorry you grew up like this. My story of growing up in regards to dieting from a young age etc is not unsimilar, but the support you needed clearly wasn’t there. I can say that and I’m just reading about it from behind a screen. I don’t want to say very much or make assumptions, but what your mother is doing is very wrong, and has been wrong throughout your childhood. It’s possible your mother has some issues of her own that she projected onto you, and now is leaving you to pick up the pieces.

    Keep writing pet. Keep going no matter what. You are so, so strong.

  10. This is a difficult read for me, and I’ve debated many times over the last couple of days whether to leave a comment or not.
    I don’t think parents are always entirely blameless. But then I hope that most people have less toxic parents and maternal relationships than I.

    In terms of my Autism – Mom repeatedly didn’t take me for speech therapy from the ages of 2-5 so I was discharged 3 times from services and still wasn’t understandably verbal by the time I started school – at which point the school provided speech therapy.
    Both parents put any difficulties I was having down to being raised a Christian in a Heathen world and I learned to behave in certain patterns through being beaten when I got it wrong.
    When I got my Autism diagnosis, the psych told me that it was very likely that I had only developed such severe co-morbid mental illnesses because I had had no support when I was growing up.
    Support that should have come from the parents who ignored every recommendation to get me “checked out” because I wasn’t “quite right in the head”.

    In terms of ED and issues with food – there was force feeding in our house. Foods that I couldn’t eat because of my sensory difficulties. That made me gag. My siblings taught me how to hide food and dispose of it so I wouldn’t have to eat it. They also taught me to steal from the biscuit tin. I was still in primary school when Mom started telling me I was big, that she didn’t understand why my sister and I were so fat when she had been a size 8 until she had me. She started encouraging me to diet as soon as the last of my brothers left home for uni.

    Dad does well reaching out for support. I’m aware that he has people he talks to (particularly his co-pastor at the church who never bats an eyelid at being asked to leave the church office because I’m having a meltdown in town and we needed to get me somewhere safe, fast), but it never gets back to me.
    Mom, well it’s why I’ve ended up without friends, she sought out my friends and I started to be bombarded with “your Mom is really struggling with you having a shoulder injury” “your Mom is really struggling with your Dad taking you to all these appointments” “your Mom is really worried about how much weight you’re losing” (yes, Mom has told me I’m too fat, too thin, too muscley….at no size have I been acceptable to mom). Being approached by people in the church to tell me what a bad person I am because don’t I know how difficult it is for Mom to have an unwell daughter is why I get so afraid to go outside now. To talk to anyone. To trust anyone even.

  11. I try to generalize them as much as possible, however, I do tend to think in terms of my own experience with anorexia. It’s so important that the caregivers are thought of, and soon I do want to cover partners in a separate post because often they see the worst side of us.

  12. This is a brilliant post, thank you for sharing your suggestions Nyxie. I am sure this will help, reassure and encourage parents who are looking for support. It’s great you have used your experience as a way to offer and share such valuable & thoughtful advice. Well done, keep up the great work! <3 xx

    Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

  13. This is a wonderful post as always! I’ve seen this in a few of your posts, but I really like how much you consider the caregivers when you’re talking about mental illness. I think it’s an important thing to consider because a) they’re people too, and they’re usually NOT medical professionals and they can’t just go home away from it all at the end of the day and b) because it should actually help them help the ill person more.

    I also hope you don’t mind me saying, but I think this post in particular could be applied to quite a few mental illnesses, and I think you’ve done a really thorough job <3

  14. This is really good advice. Although I haven’t dealt with eating disorders specifically, I’ve noticed that a lot of the parents of mental health young people I work with really struggle to communicate with their child, often describing themselves as “at their wit’s end” as they just don’t know how to deal with it. There’s so little advice out there for parents so it’s great that you’ve initiated this conversation.Thanks for sharing!

  15. I can’t even begin to imagine how painful being a parent can be sometimes, especially watching your child go through something so painful. Great tips! Parents need to make sure they take care of themselves also.

  16. It’s so important for people who take care of others in need of help to take the time to take care of themselves. Often times we forget to do so. Thank you for sharing.

  17. I loved your tips on self care for parents. It is so vital for caregivers to remember to take care of themselves so they can take care of their child. Thank you for this informative post!

  18. This is so important. So many parent blogs are aimed at newborns and children, at least that I’ve come across. But parents can need help at any part of the journey. And your tips show a lot of empathy and understanding for what they might be going through.

  19. I love how you mention that behavior is beyond their control. People shouldn’t blame others for behavior when they have an eating disorder. It’s not their fault. I’ve personally never been diagnosed with an eating disorder, but I have struggled with eating and weight gain my whole life. This is very insightful.

  20. This was such an insightful and interesting read. I’m sure it will be so helpful to lots of parents. Thank you for sharing it.

  21. I would definitely read your blog regularly when I become a father!

  22. I love this! I feel like a lot of parents/carers don’t know how to practice self care when they are going through difficult situations. These tips are easy but so important. Taking care of yourself is so important! I love what you stand for and what you’re doing. Keep up the great work! Your progress doesn’t go unnoticed. ♥

    -Jackie

  23. Excellent post! Really, it is applicable to just about any illness – Caregivers give up a lot to support sick and recovering loved-ones, thank you for thinking of their needs too! Great advice.

  24. Im like you Nyx. I can only imagine what the family is going through specifically the parents when a child is struggling with an eating disorder. Even though I see parents many times with this situation they rarely care for themselves or come to terms with their child’s mental health. I’m so glad you’re speaking out about this

  25. You make an important point about the disorder being separate from the person. This is definitely something that more people need to understand!

  26. I’m loving the whole self care and your strength. I love how you always break down eating disorders and the emotions/tolls it may take on you. Taking care of yourself is so important you can’t help other without helping yourself first so yeah like you said if you need to get away for a little with no one else go for it. Keep encouraging others ❤️❤️❤️

  27. These are great tips for self care! That’s is something I doubt any of us take nearly enough time for. I know I don’t. I just keep going and going until there’s nothing left.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recommended
What lies below the surface of anorexia, and what don't…
Cresta Posts Box by CP