F.E.A.S.T's Around The Dinner Table forum

Welcome to F.E.A.S.T's Around The Dinner Table forum. This is a free service provided for parents of those suffering from eating disorders. It is moderated by kind, experienced, parent caregivers trained to guide you in how to use the forum and how to find resources to help you support your family member. This forum is for parents of patients with all eating disorder diagnoses, all ages, around the world.

Join these conversations already in progress:
• Road To Recovery - Stories of Hope
• Events for Parents and Caregivers Around the World
• Free F.E.A.S.T Conference Videos

Visit the F.E.A.S.T website for information and support.

If you need help using the forum please reach out to one of the moderators (listed below), or email us at bronwen@feast-ed.org.

deenl
Hi all,

I have been meaning to do this post for a while and will probably edit and add to it as I think of things.

There are many, many things that I would change if I could go back in time but how we interacted with our two other sons is one of the things on our journey that I'm very proud of and I wouldn't change anything about what we did with those two. I think many other difficult life experiences had given me the tools that all came together when supporting them through their brother's illness.

To get the discussion started, I will just copy two posts I wrote on other threads (with a few edits)

Quote:
Our youngest was also 9 when his brother got so ill. We used a lot of imagery to help him understand and to make it less daunting.
  • His favourite one was Gremlins. We explained that there was a gremlin in the works. It used his brother's voice and face to work it's mischief. Underneath his brother didn't want to be acting so mean but the gremlin took over sometimes. It got to the stage where he would come over to me and whisper 'That was the Gremlin, wasn't it?' 'Sure was. Well spotted. You know X wouldn't be that nasty.' We talked about how in the movie the Gremlin came because he was fed after midnight. Well the gremlin in our house came because there was not enough food so we are going to use lots of food to get rid of him.
  • We also used Star Wars. How the Jedi have dark and light sides. His bro had temporarily gone over to the dark side. But instead of lightsabers, I had a wooden spoon. We would make us funny stories about fighting the dark side with chocolate sauce and ice cream.
  • I have also heard of people using Harry Potter imagery. The imperio spell is one of the Unforgiveable Spells and allows the person casting the spell to control another person's actions. And, of course, the Dementors symbolise depression, sucking all the light and happiness out of someone.
I used to lie on his bed at night and we would chit chat about this sort of stuff, getting in lots of goofiness and laughs too. But also about things going on in his life too. He was terribly unhappy at school but I had no emotional or mental energy to deal with it so he had to just go. I feel bad for him but luckily there has been no lasting damage. 

We also had plans of action for when the ED son lost the plot and was screaming, violent, self harming or sobbing. He would find his oldest brother and they would snuggle somewhere with the iPads and headphones on and dad and I would pop in and out as we could depending on how ED bro was. I was careful to explicitly tell them that this was a normal part of the illness and temporary. I used the imagery of people undergoing cancer treatment feeling worse in the moment but it being for the long term good. Or maybe it could help to explain that some other loved one's treatment was tough and everyone rallied around and like them, their sibling will get well again. You know what will work best in your family.



Quote:
My son was 12 when he got ill, his brother was 14 and his other brother was 9. In spite of the older one hearing our ED son's suicidal plans and the horrors of refeeding, they are both happy and well and have not needed any therapy.

I am just going to say some of the things we did, not that you have to copy them, but to inspire you to think of ideas and tweaks that may work in your home.

  • We always knew that ED was an illness. No one is to blame for getting an illness and it is totally normal for the family to rally around and support the person who is ill. We emphasisied that we would do all this for any of the family who got a terrible illness.
  • We talked openly about the elephant in the room but at an age appropriate level. There is nothing scarier for kids than a feeling of tension and not understanding. We had no choice anyway as ED son expressed his suidal plans in front of oldest and youngest overhead discussions.
  • This also helped to convey the idea that the hell we were in was temporary. It may go on for a long time but it will get better.
  • Our 2 other boys wanted nothing more than to help their ill brother. They didn't have the life experience to know what to do. So we guided them in exactly how to help. Mostly we told them to just be his brother. The eldest one got a new computer game and just chatted to ED son about it even though he didn't appear to be listening or to respond initially. Eventually, he started engaging in the conversation, watching older son play, began playing himself, began playing on-line, began actually talking to people on-line. I love that computer game. [biggrin] Younger son is more cuddly and would just sit right down beside ED son on the sofa and helped ED son to get used to being touched with affection again.
  • We emphasised that they were not to engage with any talk or put any pressure on ED son around food. That is the job of the adults.
  • They were free to tell us anything they wanted, even feelings they felt guilty about. Everything they felt was a NORMAL reaction to a really, really difficult situation. They were not responsible for catching any ED or self harm behaviour but if they noticed they could and should tell us. It was not ratting, it was necessary info to help us to help ED son.
  • We had a plan in advance for when the $#! hit the fan. This often happened in the evening or at night. Youngest would crawl into oldest bed and both would put on their headphones. Hubby and I would take turns to go into them every so often to tell them what was going on and to guide them in feeling sympathetic to their brother for having such an awful illness and having a tough time. If it was daytime, they would disappear upstairs with their iPads and headphones. They knew that if I was alone, I could not leave ED son so could not update them as much. But I always did so as soon as the incident was over.
  • We were in emotional chaos, for months we had no clear path to help our son (poor professional care) but all our kids knew that we were not going to give up, we were not going to let him die and we were going to find something that worked. These were 100% truths and the kids knew that deep down in their hearts and souls. However, during the period where we were figuring the details out Mom and Dad desperately practiced 'Fake it until you make it'. And also an acknowledgement that there was no prescription so we needed some trial and error.
  • We used many stories to help, especially the youngest. His favourite was that ED was a Gremlin in the brain. He liked that because it helped explain crazy, out of control behaviour that used his brother's voice and his brother's face. Sometimes when ED son was mean to him he would whisper to me that he knew it was just the Gremlin. We also used a Star Wars analogy that Darth Vader had the good and dark side within him, as we all do but when ED showed it's face the dark side had taken over. We were the Jedi and we would squash the dark side. We also used Harry Potter stories, especially the Dementors and Boggarts and would think up spells. Edit: and of course eating chocolate to feel better after a run in with the Dementors always seemed like a good idea to us.[wink]
  • We did not eat as a family. One parent stayed with ED son in the living room where he ate. The other ate with the other two kids. This spared them the worst of refeeding. Much later we all started eating as a family again.
Please remember that these are just ideas that worked for us, they may not work for your family. One of the core principles in family-led treatment of eating disorders is that the parents know their kids, their own style of parenting, their own strengths and weaknesses and their own situation best. They can use these to find the best way to support their child to eat better.


I would really love to hear how everyone else managed with their other kids.

Warm wishes,

D
2015 12yo son restricting but no body image issues, no fat phobia; lost weight IP! Oct 2015 home, stable but no progress. Medical hosp to kick start recovery Feb 2016. Slowly and cautiously gaining weight at home and seeing signs of our real kid.

May 2017 Hovering around WR. Mood great, mostly. Building up hour by hour at school after 18 months at home. Summer 2017 Happy, first trip away in years, food variety, begin socialising. Sept 2017, back to school FT first time in 2 years. [thumb] 2018 growing so fast hard to keep pace with weight
  • Swedish proverb: Love me when I least deserve it because that's when I need it most.
  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence Recovery, then, is not an act but a habit. Aristotle.
  • If the plan doesn't work, change the plan but never the goal.
  • We cannot control the wind but we can direct the sail.
Quote
sk8r31
Deenl, thank you so much for sharing how you helped your ED son's brothers through the challenging days.  Such brilliant strategies for supporting those boys, as you worked tirelessly to eradicate the ED monster from their brother's life.  I love the creativity you used.

Our son was 16 and his sister 14 when she was dx with AN, and honestly, I felt like I dropped the ball with him, totally focusing on d.  We did coordinate more time away with friends, overnights and so on, when possible so he had a break from the craziness at home.  We did attend every one of his tennis tournaments though, and mostly required d to come with us, so her brother could see her supporting him from the sidelines.  She confided in me during that time that she thought her brother would always hate her.  The black & white, rigid thinking of ED!

Fast forward to university years, and both kids living in different cities and really only seeing one another for a couple of weeks at holiday times.  However, this past year, both of them overlapped for a year in the same city and in the same grad program.  It was so joyful for me to know that they interacted on a regular basis, having meals together & that d could call on her big bro for support and ask many questions.  In turn, he asked her to help him shop for clothes & relied on her for social advice.  They became quite close,  and I am so grateful for that healing time together.
It is good to not only hope to be successful, but to expect it and accept it--Maya Angelou
Quote
deenl
Thank you sk8r31. For what it's worth, I think you gave your son time and attention by ensuring he had nice times with others and the commitment of showing up to every tennis tournament is not nothing, you know! 

It is impossible to do it all. That's just a fact of dealing with severe illness in the family. My poor youngest was very unhappy in school and I just had to dump him there and run back to ED son. It was only the following school year that I had enough focus to find someone to work with him and the school to ease his difficulties. I have regrets, of course, I wish desperately that it could have been different. If I could have cloned myself I would have but it was a case of priorities - our ED son was critically ill and youngest son was simply unhappy. I was stretched to the absolute limit at the time so do not feel guilty that I could not do more. Luckily, it all turned out ok in the end.

I love that your kids have such a warm relationship now and took advantage of it when they lived close by. It warms the heart to hear of relationships returning to normal as the ED eases.

Warm wishes,

D
2015 12yo son restricting but no body image issues, no fat phobia; lost weight IP! Oct 2015 home, stable but no progress. Medical hosp to kick start recovery Feb 2016. Slowly and cautiously gaining weight at home and seeing signs of our real kid.

May 2017 Hovering around WR. Mood great, mostly. Building up hour by hour at school after 18 months at home. Summer 2017 Happy, first trip away in years, food variety, begin socialising. Sept 2017, back to school FT first time in 2 years. [thumb] 2018 growing so fast hard to keep pace with weight
  • Swedish proverb: Love me when I least deserve it because that's when I need it most.
  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence Recovery, then, is not an act but a habit. Aristotle.
  • If the plan doesn't work, change the plan but never the goal.
  • We cannot control the wind but we can direct the sail.
Quote

        

WTadmin