Co-parenting with strangers

It is a rude shock for most of us: co-parenting with strangers.

But that is what it is like to seek eating disorder care for a loved one in our care: it's an arranged marriage - brokered by insurance and National Health systems and the Yellow Pages and marketing budgets and a chance referral by a friend of a friend.

This relationship that could be the difference between life and death: it is rarely a star-crossed love match across a crowded room of suitors. There isn't even time for courtship. Dating around... frowned upon.

But make no mistake: as soon as you bring your child to a professional you are entering a relationship and changing your parenting relationship with your child and the illness. I hear so often from parents disappointed with the treatment their children received, or upset because the child came home and "just went back to her illness." And it is too late to say:

Choose wisely. Your loved one is depending on you. There are many skilled, successful, life-saving clinicians out there - but it is up to you to find them and work with them - and there is no visible halo to distinguish them from anyone else. No stamp of approval or secret handshake. No letters after the name we can all point to as the Gold Standard.

But the clinicians you choose and how you manage the relationship can also be the difference between full recovery and lifelong disability or worse. You can't give them your kid and your credit card and expect them to be returned fixed.

Do you have choices? Not always. But we often have more options than we think: and no matter what, we can always choose OUR side of the relationship.


  1. The problem with choosing wisely is it is very difficult, or it least it was for me 6 years ago. One, you are in crisis and don't have much time to research options or sit around and think about what is best to do. Two, you discover that the state of adolescent mental health is pretty awful and even finding a treating psychiatrist is a struggle (let alone one that has a current knowledge of ED's). Three, you go online, trying to sift through mountains of information and research, often contradictory, on what you should/shouldn't do, approaches and evidence, etc. and you try and make sense out of it all, by yourself. Four, your local pediatricians really don't know what to do except hospitalize locally and are concerned about insurance coverage, HMO's....which leads to how much time you are spending on the phone with your insurance company. All this in between dealing with AN/ED and the rest of life.

    If ED didn't have such a life threatening immediacy, then taking a deep breath and a bit of time would be easier. This is another good reason why it is so essential that ALL the resources be assembled in one place, easily accessible to those wise, loving parents that need to move at lightning speed to stop ED dead, in it's tracks.

    This site is a great resource for that. Bu, every doctor's office, every hospital, every school should have this information at their fingertips. And use it and share it with families.

  2. Heartbreakingly true - all of it.

    We've got to hit this from both angles: arm parents with better questions, and nurture clinicians with better answers!!

  3. My family had very good help when my daughter was ill. I would not characterize that care as 'co-parenting' at all, however. Her providers included a very experienced MD and therapist who really helped us. Their training and understanding of the disorder enabled them to advise us so we could help her. Certainly, it would be great if there were more of these people to go around. and it's heartening to know that training efforts are underway. Parents do need to choose wisely.

    They in no way took on a parental role. Rather, they respected us as parents and helped us get back on track, and we respected their knowledge and expertise in eating disorders.

  4. Interestingly, one of the most important things I'm trying to learn in recovery is how to parent myself. To take care of myself, to set my own limits. My extreme behaviors (in studying, perfectionism, exercise, eating, etc) are generally praised by society, and it's hard for me to figure out how to do this. So I guess I have a little threesome of parents going on: my actual parents, my lovely therapist, and, um, ME! But it's only that I'm healthier now that I can begin to take on this role.


    May the whole world have the experience you did! With the treatment team, that is, and not the my-kid-has-an-ED part...

  5. Anonymous,

    Please have your team cloned and distributed: we need a fleet more like 'em!!


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