National Eating Disorders Association

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Parent of 2 with ED

I am reaching out to the community because during this pandemic, I have allowed my 23 y/0 son to move back home temporarily during the pandemic as he is a high functioning autistic young man with a compulsive eating disorder. I am struggling with how to set appropriate boundaries and expectations around food. Three weeks ago, my 19 y/o daughter confirmed that she is purging and restricting. She struggles with anxiety and depression and said that her brother's eating disorder has caused her to feel extremely angry, especially since she feels there is more attention on her ED and not on her brother's. She wants me to ban certain food from entering the home and she has gone to stay with my sister out of state due to this situation. I have a 21 y/o son who does not currently exhibit any ED behavior.

This is admittedly a very difficult time for us as a family, for my children as young adults and as siblings. The issues are many and while we all have our own therapists, there seems to be other issues that have contributed to much of their current struggles.

Their father died 8 years ago from complications related to an ED and an Substance Use Disorder. I am in recovery myself and attend AA and work with a sponsor. I have 4 years sobriety. I am a licensed clinical social worker and have worked in addiction treatment. Nothing seems to have prepared me for facing these issues and I am looking for support for myself from other parents.

I am interested in finding ways to connect with others to learn how to respond, redirect and remind my children about the dangers of eating disorders and other addictions.

Thank you for any support provided.


Hello there and welcome to the forum. I want to say that I am not a mother, but I have one and she and my father have had to deal with extensive issues with each of their five daughters, ranging from incest, rape, physical violence, dealing with me with a at times a life threatening eating disorder, anxiety and depression. My sister is now being cared for by them, my father is going to be 80 in July and my Mom 79 in March, and they are making decisions no parent should have to make, the possibility of Hospice. She is now on Palliative care.

I say all of this to let you know that we didn't survive all of this by ourselves. We have relied on Jesus for strength and His Hope. I do not know what your beliefs are but I would not be alive if it weren't for my parents love and the love of Jesus in my life.

It is difficult to hear how much eating disorders have played a role in your family. Is there any way you could have some family sessions? Would either one of the two be willing? It may help bring in some understanding and give you some ideas as to how to navigate these waters.

Congratulations on your four years. That is a good thing and you need to give yourself credit for that accomplishment.

NEDA has a parents tool kit on their web page. It is very informative and may help you answer some of these questions and dilemmas you are facing. Also the help line is available if you want to talk or chat with someone.

I just reread your post and you said you are a LCSW. Unfortunately these issues do not discriminate and even with your training, when it hits home, it doesn't really help as you need support and guidance. Therapists need therapy. You know this. But I am just trying to encourage you to not feel badly that you don't have the answers. No one is prepared for these issues. And you may not be the one to help your children understand the dangers of the eating disorders they struggle with. What helps me is to have my parents listen, not try to tell me I am wrong for feeling a certain way or thinking a certain way. This comes from years, all my life really, of being corrected and told I am wrong and my father knows more than I do about everything. So just to be heard, to talk about something that has upset me or that I am worried about without being told to not be anxious about it....those are the kinds of things I need. I don't know about your children, adult children which complicates things a little bit more... That being said there are times when if there is a risk of harm or a medical situation you have to act. I know you know this but I am just rambling a bit here.

So although I am not a mother, as I said, I have one and have seen her suffer with each of her daughters troubles. I also didn't want your post to go unanswered so I hope you don't mind me sharing a bit with you and to encourage you to make sure you are taking care of yourself as well. There are no easy answers unfortunately. Please post again and I hope a mother answers with her input. Take care for now...


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