National Eating Disorders Association

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Unsupportive Parent for Teen with ED

Hi Everyone,

My husband and I (the step mom) currently only see his 15 year old daughter Fridays-Sundays every week. She has been battling ED for over a year now, and recently we found she had lost a large amount of weight that she had worked to gain back earlier in the year. I am now taking over her eating schedule and working to feed her a normal diet, but that only happens on the days I see her. Her mother works and does not see her very often during the week and does not seem to supervise meals or take her condition seriously. My step daughter sees a psychologist every two weeks and is on lexapro, but we feel that more intervention is needed based on her symptoms and mood. My husband and I suggested that the kids move in with us because my husband can be around more often to supervise and assist both of his children due to his job. This would require the kids to move to a new town and change schools. Mother refused and when we brought up the fact that my step daughter has lost the weight, did not seem concerned.

My question is...What do we do? I feel like my step daughter is slipping away because there is no consistency or even recognition by her mother that there is a problem. What are our options?

Post Edited

Hi katkalla! We are glad that you are finding support here on the NEDA forums. A portion of your post was edited and deleted due to the mention of specific medications and numbers that may be triggering to other forum members. Our community guidelines are always available to review here: In the event you need further assistance please call the NEDA helpline at 1-800-931-2237 (M-Th 9-9 F 9-5 EST). Again, thank you for posting, and we hope you will continue to do so!

re: Unsupportive Parent for Teen with ED

Hi katkalla--welcome to the forums! I'm so sorry to hear you're struggling with this situation with your stepdaughter. You've come to the right place for help. This is a great community full of people who are dealing with a lot of similar issues.

It sucks that your stepdaughter's mom doesn't seem to be taking her ED seriously. Since that doesn't seem like anything you can control, I'm wondering if focusing more on your stepdaughter's personal approach to her recovery might be more useful, rather than trying to make sure someone is there to supervise her recovery at all times?

I totally understand the desire to watch over her and make sure she's sticking to her eating plan and not using behaviors, especially since she's lost so much weight recently--I'm sure you're feeling terrified. But as a recovered bulimic myself, I can guarantee your stepdaughter won't make real progress in recovery until she's committed to it for herself--not for a parent or a partner or a sibling or a friend. That means understanding the steps she needs to take on her own in order to get better, not just adopting and maintaining a kind of passive mindset of, "OK, I'll follow the rules because my doctors and parents are telling me to."

Is your stepdaughter open about her ED with you or her dad? Does she have strategies for coping with her ED behaviors or thoughts, such as the urge to restrict? Shining the light on your stepdaughter's autonomy to take the reins of her own recovery might help 1) empower her to really come up with her own reasons for getting better, and 2) reduce your stress when she's at her mother's house and out of your purview.

That said, I know teenagers aren't necessarily famous for confiding in their parents, so I'm glad to hear your stepdaughter is in regular therapy and is sticking with her medication. Are you or her dad in contact with her psychologist? Perhaps increasing the frequency of these sessions could be useful if she's not comfortable discussing her progress with family members or friends.

Of course, all that's not to say you can't provide as much support as possible! The fact that you're reaching out on this website shows how much you care about your stepdaughter and her well-being. She's lucky to have you in her life. As you and your family continue down the path to your stepdaughter's recovery, I wanted to point you to some resources on the NEDA website that you might find helpful when trying to wrap your head around how to be the best support system possible.

Parent Toolkit (super comprehensive):

General info on EDs (not sure how much research you've already done, but the first step is always understanding the beast):

Lots of great pages and guidance on how to help a loved one:

Finally, remember to take care of yourself during this time, too--EDs are powerful and they can have negative impacts for everyone they touch, not just the person who's suffering. Are you and your husband keeping the lines of communication open about how you're feeling and dealing with this? Have you considered seeing a therapist yourselves? Hope this helps and please keep us posted. We're here for you!

Unsupportive parent

Hello katkalla
I'm so sorry that you're going through this right now but you have come to the right place as you'll be well supported here. I understand that every case is different as well as everyone's recovery. In the case with my 14 year old daughter, FBT (Family Based Treatment) is what seems to be working for her. After struggling for a year with AN, hospitalized for 6 weeks with a feeding tube for a week of those 6 weeks only to gain back a small amount of weight, FBT was like a saviour for us and she's only been in FBT for a week! The approach is that all control is taken away from the child, parents "plate" each meal and behaviors (purging, hiding food, exercising etc) are eliminated with strict monitoring. It's a huge commitment but one that will potentially save your child's life. She's gained more weight back in just a week as opposed to only a few in 6 weeks inpatient in the ED unit! I see my child coming back! She's getting nourished and is happy again after so long. Please research this model of care which even if you need to travel for treatment. Good luck and keep us posted. Early intervention is key!!!!! This disorder have the highest morbidity of any mental illness and she didn't choose this - no blaming, just healing

edit notification

Hi yogadoula--your post has been edited to comply with our community guidelines: As you continue to use the forums for support, please keep in mind that any member of the NEDA community can read any forum at any time. For that reason, we ask that all users refrain from including specific numbers in their posts, as this information is likely to be triggering for forum users who have a personal history or experience with ED. Thank you for helping us keep the forums a safe space for everyone.