National Eating Disorders Association

The Journey to Recovery: Advice by and for Parents of Children Recovering from an Eating Disorder

The Members of NEDA's Parents, Friends & Family Network

There is no ‘quick fix’

There’s no easy solution to an eating disorder, and the road to recovery can be exhausting. Prepare for it like you would any journey: build a good team, educate yourself, ask for help when you need it, and always remember that recovery IS possible.

Learn, read, research and educate

Eating disorders are serious diseases, and treating them can be an expensive and long process. The more you know about insurance, treatment methodologies, and eating disorders, the more informed your decisions will be. NEDA’s Parent Toolkit (link) is a great place to start.

Build a good team

Your team should include treatment professionals as well as loved ones who have offered to help. Knowing that you have a support system can carry you through the most trying times. If the professional treatment team isn’t working out, don’t be afraid to let them go and start over. It’s not personal – it’s all about finding the best fit for your child.

Do what you can, but don’t overdo it

If you need help, ask for it – no one is a superhero, and pushing yourself to the edge won’t help anyone. It is okay to want to give up sometimes. Eating disorders are exhausting for everyone affected, and there’s no shame in admitting that you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Practice self-care

Self-care means something different to everyone. For you, it may include seeing a therapist, learning a new skill, signing up for a NEDA Navigator, finding a support group, or setting a weekly night out with friends. Don’t let the eating disorder take over your family and life. Find your outlet and use it!

The disorder is the bad guy (not your child)

An eating disorder is a mental illness, and it will fight tooth and nail to stay in control. Your child might say and do some hurtful things, but it’s the eating disorder speaking – and you will never win a debate with an eating disorder. Remember who your child really is, and remember that they can come back.

You love them: show it and tell it

Non-judgmental, supportive love is essential. Tell them that you’re there for them, and show it through your actions: by learning about eating disorders and building a good team, you’re demonstrating your commitment to their health and life.

Never forget: Recovery is possible.

All of these tips came from the parents of recovered children.  It’s a long and challenging road to recovery, and sometimes it can seem like an endless path, but recovery IS possible.

Do you have a child or loved one who is struggling with an eating disorder?  NEDA Navigators have experience supporting loved ones through their struggle and may be able to help. For more information about how to get connected with a NEDA Navigator, contact NEDA’s Information & Referral Helpline by calling 800.931.2237 or using the Click to Chat function online.  


NEDA is here to support you during the evolving COVID-19 outbreak. The health of our community, especially those who are most vulnerable to the virus' serious complications, remains paramount. To access resources that can provide free and low-cost support, please click here.