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How to Encourage Your Older Adolescent Child to Seek Eating Disorder Treatment  

By Lee Neagle MA, LPC| 3 Min Read | February 16, 2024
Learning the warning signs of bulimia can help a teen live a life of recovery and healing.

Convincing an older adolescent (15–17-year-olds) to seek treatment for an eating disorder can be a challenging and delicate process for parents or caregivers. Adolescents suffering with an eating disorder often experience intense feelings of shame, fear, and sometimes denial, which can cause resistance to treatment or an inability to recognize the need for help. In addition, they are moving through pivotal years of individuation and will often assert their desire for full authority over their lives.  

However, with patience, empathy, and support, a parent or caregiver can encourage their child to take steps toward recovery. In this blog post, we’ll explore six practical strategies that you can utilize to help motivate your child to seek treatment for an eating disorder. 

  • Educate Yourself: Take the time to educate yourself about eating disorders. Learn about the different types of eating disorders, their symptoms, and the potential risks if they are left untreated. Understanding the complexity of your child’s eating disorder will help you approach the conversation with empathy and support. You can learn more about eating disorders and co-occurring conditions by clicking here.
  • Choose the Right Moment: Select a time when your child is calm, relaxed, and open to a conversation with you. Avoid bringing up the topic during mealtimes, moments of conflict, or if you can see your child is stressed as this may increase defensiveness and resistance.
  • Use “I” Statements: When discussing your child’s eating disorder, use “I” statements to express your feelings and observations. For example, instead of saying, “You make me angry when I watch you make yourself sick,” try saying, “I feel concerned about you and how your behaviors may be affecting your health.” 
  • Express Concern, Not Judgment: Approach your child with empathy and compassion, expressing your authentic concern for your adolescent’s well-being. Judgmental or accusatory language should be avoided as this may cause your child to shut down or become defensive. Instead, focus on expressing your support and your desire to help them get the treatment they need as you would for any other medical or health condition.
  • Highlight the Benefits of Treatment: Help your child understand the potential benefits of treatment for their eating disorder. You can highlight how treatment can improve their physical health, emotional well-being, and overall quality of life. Emphasize that recovery is possible and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  • Involve Professional Support: If the adolescent is resistant to seeking treatment, consider involving trusted healthcare providers or specialized eating disorder clinicians. Sometimes, hearing concerns from multiple sources can help reinforce the importance of getting help. Our team at Inner Haven Wellness is here to help provide guidance to you on how to talk about the advantages of early intervention as well as the risks of delaying treatment. You can click here to reach out to us for a free consultation.

In conclusion, helping your adolescent build motivation to seek treatment for an eating disorder requires patience, empathy, and compassion. By educating yourself, approaching the conversation with sensitivity, expressing genuine concern with “I” statements, and when necessary, involving professional support, you can help empower the adolescent to take steps toward recovery. Remember to be patient and continue to offer your support as they embark on their journey toward healing. 

We support many parents and caregivers as they work to help their adolescent child build motivation for change. Please feel free to contact us by clicking here, and one of our compassionate team members will contact you within 24 hours.