National Eating Disorders Association
Blog
Parents & Caregivers

For many years, the reality we lived in was one of fear; fear that ED would take the lives of our daughters. Would they be alive at Christmas or their next birthdays? As morose as that sounds, that is the reality of being parents or family members of someone with an eating disorder. We were at battle with ED and every day that they were still on this earth, we had the opportunity to find a way through the fog ED created.

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When our family therapist told us that family relationships were wholly repairable, I was dubious. At the time, it felt like we would never fully escape the chaos, fear, and unhappiness that an eating disorder had brought to our family. We didn’t know how to communicate, to adjust, to support, and to manage in this new situation. But the biggest gift of the holiday season was the joy of seeing rekindled love in my children’s relationships with one another and seeing how we are all learning how better to be happy together. 

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The holidays are stressful for everyone and there tend to be a myriad of events to attend with friends and family. The emphasis on food, especially in very social settings, plus the stress of seeing family and friends you haven’t seen in a while makes for a difficult holiday season.

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When your child is struggling with an eating disorder, the holidays can be a complicated time for the whole family. With that in mind, our PFN Steering Committee shared their best tips on how your family can have a peaceful and healthy holiday season.

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Ed came along like a boyfriend you hoped your daughter would never bring home. I had been waiting for the day I would have to deal with this guy—I just hadn't realized he would come in the form of vapor, a cloud, something I couldn't reach out and injure. I expected flesh and blood.

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It was very difficult for our family to lose our daughter Karyn to an eating disorder in the prime of her life at the age of 46. We and she did everything in our power to save her, and in the end, by telling her story we would like the story to be one of hope and miracles.

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The journey through my daughter’s ten-year battle with anorexia was long and difficult. There were many twists and turns, detours and crashes along the way - almost to the point that we thought it would end in her death.

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Catch them, challenge them, change them. Get used to this phrase; it is the seed of hope that must be planted in both you and your child’s minds for ANY chance of long-term success.

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One of the things I found most difficult during my daughter’s struggle with an eating disorder was how to fulfill my role as a parent even when the experts’ advice ran completely counter to my instincts. I would feel like some of my daughter’s behavior demanded consequences, yet her therapist would tell me to let him handle it, and/or to remember that she was punishing herself in so many ways and didn’t need more punishment. I felt at odds letting her get away with behaviors that I wouldn’t let my other children do without consequences.

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Every eating disorder story is unique. My story starts with having the baby girl of my dreams after having four boys in the family. She was nurtured, loved, smart, beautiful, athletic, more privileged than my other children and the product of a loving home environment.  

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