Medical Articles

Eating Disorders: My Child's Anorexia Is Impacting My Other Kids - Part One

The simplest definition of family dynamics is it is the way family members relate to each other. When your child develops anorexia it impacts the whole family and anorexia actually changes or intensifies family roles.

Let's say you're anorexic child has a younger sibling. This sibling has had a predictable relationship with you. He is used to being the center of attention because he is the baby in the family. The anorexia comes along and he is dethroned and is now taking a back seat to his ill sister.

For example: You are all sitting at the table trying to get your daughter to eat more. The younger sibling puts up with this for part of the meal; but by the end he is running circles around the table and pestering the other kids. Your family is in an uproar and your daughter manages to get by with eating very little.

Two dynamics are in play here:
1) Your youngest son is jealous because you are paying less attention to him and begins acting out
2) His acting out distracts you from follow through in assuring your daughter eats

The first and most obvious thing I would recommend is to spend time with your other children apart from your anorexic daughter. This is a challenge because of how busy families are and you are expending a lot of time in energy in re-feeding your ill child.

The more you and your spouse can tag team the easier this will be. One of you spends time with the siblings and the other with your ill daughter. If you are a single parent it is important for you to involve another trusted adult family member or friend who can help you with this.

This will help at meal times because the family is getting more of their needs met at other times. Depending on the ages of your other kids you can also have a conversation with them to explain the necessity of your increased attention to their sister.

They won't fully comprehend or accept this but it will help to keep the family talking about how ED is impacting them. It is important they have permission to talk about their thoughts and feelings.

You can say things like, "I understand you miss me taking you to your baseball games. I miss it too. We all are making sacrifices so we can help your sister get better. She is going to be your aunt during your next game so I can go. I can't wait to see you play!"

Conversations like this will go a long way in helping your kids adjust to the changes in your time and attention. It won't fix everything but it will help.


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