TIPS FOR PARENTS

Whether their child is 10 or 20, parents of a patient with bulimia or anorexia may find it difficult to deal with such a constant, long-term problem. Do not urge your child to eat, or watch her eat, or discuss food intake or weight with her. Your involvement with her eating is her tool for manipulating parents.

1: Do not allow yourself to feel guilty. Once your have checked out her physical condition with a physician and made it possible for her to begin counseling, getting well is her responsibility.

2: Do not neglect your spouse or other children. Focusing on the sick child can perpetuate her illness and destroy the family.

3: Do not be afraid to have the child separated from you, either at school or in separate housing, if it becomes obvious that her continued presence is undermining the emotional health of the family. Don't allow her to intimidate the family with threats of suicide. But don't ignore the threats, either.

4: Do not put the child down by comparing her to her more "successful" siblings or friends. Do not ask questions such as, "How are you feeling?" or "How is your social life?"

5: Love your child as you should love yourself.

6: Trust your child to find her own values, ideals and standards, rather than insisting on yours.

7: Do everything to encourage her initiative, independence and autonomy.

8: Be aware of the long-term nature of the illness. Families must face months and sometimes years of treatment and anxiety.

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