Mending the relationship after a bust-up

Does your child act totally out of character when he or she is worried about food? Have you been screamed at, or kicked? Have you had a plate of pasta tipped onto your lap in a restaurant? Has your child run away?

After a highly charged event when your child (and perhaps yourself) have been very reactive, you could choose to initiate dialogue. The idea is to:

  • take care of yourself (because you're hurt)
  • take care of your child (because he or she needs safety and understanding) and
  • repair your relationship

You might also be looking for solutions or agreements so that whatever happened won’t happen again.

Eating disorders tend to make emotions run high. What can parents do after the fireworks?

My experience is that while the eating disorder is raging, this kind of conversation is near impossible. Our children are in such a state of turmoil that they simply don’t have the space to connect with themselves or with us. But once you’ve moved on from this stage, how can you talk with your child about her latest outburst?

It’s wise to prepare for this kind of conversation with some self-compassion, so that you can be really present to your child. Your body language might give a lot away if you’re still hurting, and your child may not be well enough to bear it.

In Chapter 14 of my book, I guide you through mending conversations. The aim is to nurture the relationship, and if necessary to work out how to prevent a recurrence of what happened.

* Chapter 14: Love, no matter what: how to support your child with compassionate communication *

8 Replies to “Mending the relationship after a bust-up”

  1. Eva, your site has provided some very useful and practical guidance. My daughter's therapist is incredibly cold and at times has provided conflicting advice. This is not only unhelpful but also very confusing. My daughter is holding back so much in her sessions. She does not trust or feel comfortable with her therapist. Please could you provide some advice on how I can request an alternative therapist. The relationship and chemistry is simply not there.

    1. Hi Sahara, I'm glad there's practical guidance for you here. Have you seen my chapter on therapists ?
      How you request an alternative therapist would depend on the country and system you're in. Here in the UK, within the NHS, I reckon I would first ask the therapist him/herself, then their boss (the clinical director maybe), then if that failed, go up the tree to the head of the Trust.
      The next question is whether it's the therapy that's the issue, rather than the therapist.
      For a child, FBT is the best therapy to go for, yet it's unlikely the child will like the therapist because the therapist will make eating a priority. And it's fine if the child holds back – it's not a talking psychotherapy . There, the question is more whether you the parents feel well supported so you can support your child.
      If your child is a young adult or an adult, if it's CBT-E therapy and parents are not involved much, then it does matter that there is a relationship as that is part of the treatment, so it would be a perfectly valid request to change or revisit how things are going.
      If it's another kind of therapy then there's probably no research to show the chances of it working even if your child loved the therapist and opened up, so you have many more questions to ask. I hope this gets you a step further along the road?

  2. Hello,
    My sister showed me your page a couple of days ago and I'm reading it in detail. My daughter is 10 and her eating has been getting worse for a year. Now she seems fully entrenched, crying for hours after small meals, very low esteem and loosing weight rapidly.
    Your site is helping me to be clear on what approach to take whilst feeling so all over the place.
    Her referral to further support is just coming through.
    Thank you,

    1. Thanks for letting me know. I'll be so glad if this book, and the therapy to come, help you help your little girl and if you get to find some peace of mind too.

  3. Dear Eva,
    I came close to a big bust up with my daughter this morning, following the sort of behaviour that I simply would not countenance if she weren't ill, but I've just re-read this chapter and you've reassured me that I love her despite everything, and that I can deal with this. Thank you for your wonderful book – I really think it might save my sanity!

    1. Wow. You're back in touch with your love and your strength. I am so very glad. You've made my day by letting me know. Sending warm wishes to you, your daughter and family.

  4. Lebza, I'm really pleased if this is helping give you specifics. I know it's what I needed to at the time. I'd love to hear how you get on. I also suggest you show your FBT therapist this site if you haven't already done so. That way you might get more from the partnership. (Plus, I would love therapists to point families to the resources here.)

  5. Thank you so much for this. This is exactly what we need after doing maudsley based practice for 7 months which was what we needed to get stability we are now in a relatively stable (Ok the boat often rocks violently!) place but moving to phase 2 is such a bitch that we really really can do with these specific skills with actual example of conversations like " giving up on cafes is not a great solution" these are just the practical tips that I need that I feel a lot of books don't address as they are so concerned with getting the kids away from deaths door but as we have discovered that is just a first step. We are nominally weight restored but the state is so so so stuck that I often wonder and this hard work of getting back to independent eating seems like a huge ocean with very few guiding principles to help us navigate, so this book is very timely and I will be buying a physical and e copy as soon as its published.

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