Teen Eating Disorders and Power Struggles
~Please visit Texas Health & Life for the Most Affordable Texas Heath Insurance & Texas Medicare Supplement~ Teenagers typically experience feelings of separation and autonomy which can lead to a power struggle between a teen and his or her parents. Its important to keep an open line of communication between parents and teens but can be difficult. However, power struggles can be especially difficult and frightening for families who have a teenager suffering from an eating disorder. There are many reasons why teenagers can develop an eating disorder. Eating disorders can serve as a way to express feelings and behaviors that can't necessarily be verbalized. When teens express these issues through the language of an eating disorder, it can become a self-destructive form and very unhealthy of communication. Most people with eating disorders have a difficult time expressing and experiencing. Symptoms are a behavioral way to express what cannot be expressed emotionally. A typical child who is angry at a parent may sulk, avoid contact, slam their door, or not follow through on household chores. A child with an eating disorder might choose to not eat or vomit. It is easier for a parent to have consequences when a child won't take out the garbage but it is painfully sensitive and scary for a parent to have consequences for a teenager who chooses not to eat as a way to express their dissatisfaction. Helping teenagers find an emotional, not a behavioral, voice is key in dismantling power struggles between parent and child. Words and communication need to replace destructive or life-threatening behaviors. Here are suggestions for families struggling with their teenager's eating disorder:
- Teenagers with eating disorders have increased difficulty expressing their feelings, especially anger. Parents need to understand that their teenager's eating disorder is not a willful act, but one out of helplessness and pain. Their attempt is ultimately not dirrected at you, but to hurt themselves.
- A parent's voice of understanding, sensible limit setting, and compromise is needed when dealing with a teenager and an eating disorder. Talking about what they are eating is not helpful and often provokes a power struggle between the parent and teenager. A Parent needs to point out when their teenager is using their symptoms as a weapon then ask whether they can share in words what they are feeling.
- Parent's anxiety might be escalated during the course of their teenager's illness. It's important for a parent to keep their anxiety in check and will help with rational thinking and your responses particularly when a teenager's behavior is rebellious and scary.