There are different views on how to handle the question of why does my daughter or son have anorexia.
Some believe there is benefit for the family to explore why the eating disorder developed.
Others assert the reasons are not important. It is a fruitless discussion and will only assign blame to the parents. I am not criticizing those who hold this view. I understand their reasons for it. They are valid reasons and I respect it.
Does this mean I think parents should engage in hours of navel gazing and focus on all the things they think they did wrong? No.
I do believe, however, there can be value in discussing what causes anorexia and for the family to ask why. I also believe every parent has a right to ask the question and have it be heard and explored if they want to.
- One reason is the question itself is often the first question parents ask. To not discuss it is like the proverbial elephant in the room that everyone sees but no one talks about. If approached with compassion and a heart only to help the family, it is possible for parents to look at this issue objectively and not absorb blame.This awareness can also give your daughter permission to talk about hurts or disappointments that have occurred in the family. Family relationships can be strengthened and healed.
- The second reason it can be valuable to discuss, is I don’t think parents want to be handled with kid gloves. They want to know the truth, even if it hurts.Every parent I have worked with has said they will do anything to help their daughter, they just want to know what to do and they will do it. That includes looking at their families through new eyes; because every family sees things differently once their daughter or son has an eating disorder.Let’s really think about this. How might a parent feel to be told it really doesn’t matter what caused your child’s illness or why this happened? You just need to go forward from here.My experience is in reality, that statement doesn’t go over very well. I believe in part it is because they want to know the truth; but I also think that statement feels condescending. It may be like telling them you can’t handle the truth so let’s just not go there.No one likes to be told, even if it’s veiled in compassion, they are not strong enough or capable of handling or helping their own child. I think it is disrespectful not to help parents explore all pieces of the puzzle that contributed to their daughter’s life threatening illness. Even if it means they have to look in the mirror.Let me just add here that looking in the mirror can reflect as many positive things as negative. The family’s strengths may become more evident than if this wasn’t explored.
- The third reason it may be valuable to discuss why, is because the question itself is often a spiritual question. It implies a desire to find meaning in this crisis. Exploring this can open the window a crack to look at life in some deeper ways. When we explore why things happen, we invite growth and transformation for ourselves and our daughters as well.
- The fourth reason some parents explore why is there are things your daughter or son will learn about life as they watch you walk through this trial with them. You will show her how to wrestle with questions when there may be no apparent answers.
I have had my share of those. It has made me stronger and more humble to be able to admit there are some questions I will never have answers to this side of heaven. I certainly didn’t enjoy it at the time, but I learned deep lessons from it.
Can there be any greater reasons than those to ask why?
So do you need to explore family issues or why this happened to your child? Only you can decide that.
Lynn Moore educates, coaches, and consults parents on how to help their adolescent with eating disorder behavior.