Being a Body-Safe Parent
Submitted by Marnie Rundiks, CCD Docent and proud parent of two dancers, Inara & Bergen Wheeler
How does a parent navigate the treacherous waters of their teenager’s eating disorder? You need to be strong – stronger than you ever imagined and be dedicated to the process. You need to educate yourself and trust the science.
Initially, I blamed myself for missing the warning signs. I quickly learned that there was nothing I could have done to prevent the eating disorder. I do think my quick acceptance, my relentless research and follow through made all the difference. I realized that beating myself up was wasted energy that needed to be redirected to her recovery.
She needed immediate inpatient care with a heart rate of 29 BPM. All the treatment centers were full to capacity with long waitlists. I resisted panicking and emailed, called, and visited every treatment center within 200 miles. Children’s Hospital had a cancellation and I seized the opportunity.
The Maudsley Family-Based Therapy Approach was our roadmap to recovery. The entire family went to the hospital 12 hours everyday for 6 weeks. We were all educated on how to hold space, how to talk, how to model, and how to support our girl.
The key is radical acceptance – you can’t deny or run away from it. It will be difficult, messy and frightening. Your child will say and do unbelievable things. I learned to be vigilant, watchful and pay attention to my gut instincts. This served me well as her eating disorder could outwit and outsmart anyone.
We were able to set the stage for complete openness, honesty and transparency as the eating disorder lives in the shadows, thriving on lies and deception. Most importantly, I had to learn to not react – ever. I had to keep a calm demeanor and facial expression no matter what she said or did. Being silent was often the best response.
After leaving the hospital we hired an eating disorder therapist with 17 years of experience. I understood that I needed professional help to continue supporting her especially as she was adamant about returning to dance. We enlisted the assistance of a nutritional therapist that specializes in advising young athletes.
Laughter became so important. My daughter developed a wicked sense of humor that seemed very strange for her young age. I was surprised at my ability to stomach her dark jokes. Humor helped us cope with a very sinister and frightening situation. It continues to serve us well and keep us connected as she is back training, dancing and aspiring to be a professional dancer.
I couldn’t save my daughter. We all knew it. She had to save herself. She started indoor rock climbing which became the metaphor to her recovery. She had to be exceedingly careful and thoughtful with each move she made on the rock face. If she made a mistake, she had to come down, think about her error, and try again. Her family and therapists were at the top of the cliff holding a rope down to her. She could see us at the top but she had to do all the hard work to climb up to us.
If you believe you have a child/teenager with an eating disorder or disordered eating, pay attention and do not turn away from the situation. You need to watch, take action and stay the course.
Warning Signs and Symptoms: