Being a Parent Of A Child With An Eating Disorder

Being a parent is a hard job, and parenting a child with an eating disorder can often feel more challenging. You may have feelings of guilt, shame, or confusion. You may be overwhelmed with the treatment options and support necessary for your child to work toward recovery. You may wonder how you can help your child and will likely need to receive support for yourself.

What To Do If You’re Concerned

If you are concerned that your child has an eating disorder, early intervention is a critical component in helping your child progress toward recovery sooner and can help prevent the eating disorder from continuing to progress into a more severe state. Regardless of your child’s age, being honest with your observations of their behaviors and concerns is important. 

A great first step is to make an appointment with your child’s doctor to discuss your concerns. It is important to remember that your child may not want to participate, may express that your observations are “exaggerated,” or may not feel like their behaviors are a “big deal.” This is common and expected as the eating disorder is being threatened of being found out.

What Are The Levels Of Eating Disorder Treatment? 

Once your child receives an eating disorder diagnosis, they may receive treatment-related recommendations from their doctor or be referred to have an assessment through a treatment facility. This is necessary to determine what level of care is best for your child. The five levels of care include inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient care. 

It is important to remember that eating disorders look different for everyone and that your child’s eating disorder isn’t less valid depending on the level of support they need. There is also an important support role for you as their parent within each level of care.

What Is Inpatient and Residential Treatment? 

Inpatient and residential treatment services are structured and allow clients to be monitored by clinicians and receive round-the-clock care. Inpatient services may occur in a hospital setting, whereas residential services are typically in a house with other clients. Clients spend nights here, and the time length of their stay can vary depending on clinical recommendations. BALANCE does not offer inpatient or residential treatment services.

What Is A Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)? 

A PHP program can be a suitable level of support for someone stepping down from residential treatment or who may need additional support than traditional outpatient services or a less intense treatment program. BALANCE’s Day Program runs Monday through Friday from 7:45 AM to 2:15 PM ET, with an option to attend our Saturday program as well. 

Clients in BALANCE’s Day Program meet individually with their therapist and dietitian, participate in different groups and therapies, and more. We strive to help our clients reduce eating disorder thoughts and behaviors, develop a more peaceful relationship with food and their bodies, and discover coping and interpersonal skills to live a life free of their eating disorder.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

An IOP program can be a suitable level of support for someone stepping down from a partial hospitalization or day program or who may need additional support than traditional outpatient services. BALANCE’s IOP Weeknight Program runs Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 6 PM to 9 PM ET. This level of support allows your child to have meals and snacks with clinicians and at home. Our IOP allows continuation of work and school commitments while still receiving eating disorder support.

Outpatient Care

While your child is receiving outpatient care, they attend regularly scheduled appointments with their treatment team, including but not limited to their physician, therapist, psychiatrist, and registered dietitian. In this level of care, your child will have mostly returned to their usual routine as long as their scheduled sessions with their treatment do not conflict. They may need to avoid triggering environments or situations to prioritize recovery. Your child’s treatment team will keep you informed on how you can continue to be involved in your child’s recovery. BALANCE offers individual nutrition counseling with a licensed dietitian, meal support services, and other outpatient groups and resources.

Supporting your child with an eating disorder can feel overwhelming, but you do not have to do it alone. If you are concerned that your child may have an eating disorder, we encourage you to book a free 20-minute consultation call with our admissions team here or join us for our next free Virtual Eating Disorder Support Group to learn more about eating disorders and connect with other support people here.


Contemplating Recovery Free Support Group. Balance. Accessed March 19, 2024 

Eating Disorder Meal Support. Balance. Accessed March 19, 2024. 

Eating Disorder Partial Hospitalization Day Treatment Program (PHP). Balance. Accessed March 13, 2024.

Eating Disorder Weeknight Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). Balance. Accessed March 19, 2024. 

Maudsley Method Family Therapy. Eating Disorder Hope. Accessed March 4, 2024. 

Nutrition and Meal Support. Balance. Accessed March 19, 2024. 

Parent Toolkit. National Eating Disorders Association. Accessed March 14, 2024.

This post was written by BALANCE Blog Contributor, Dawn Lundin (she/her).

Dawn Lundin, MS, RD is a registered dietitian and owner of Restore Ease Dietetics which is a virtual nutrition private practice that focuses on mental health + sports nutrition. She primarily with adolescents and young adults with eating disorders. She believes in meeting clients where they are at which provides a unique client-focused approach to recovery. She lives in Marquette, Michigan with her husband and three sons. As a family, they love to travel and spend time outdoors. She also enjoys mountain biking, running, cross-country skiing, being on or in the water, and knitting.

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