Parents, Teens and Emotion Coaching
So what do parents, teens and emotion coaching have to do with an eating disorder?
Going through an eating disorder or even being a caregiver of someone with an eating disorder can be just as difficult mentally and emotionally as it is physically. In my experience, a lot of teens or preteens do not feel as if they are in a space where they want a lot of change and tend to push away their support system that is trying to help.
Parents or caregivers can often feel at a loss, a sense of helplessness, fear and maybe even some self blame! As a result, it’s common to either go too much in one direction - completely hands off or maybe so hands on that you’re exhausted and your loved one feels “smothered.”
Counseling can help to bridge this gap and help a parent or caregiver find that healthy middle ground as well as provide enough structure and expectations with the loved one that is grounded in validation and understanding.
It may be hard to imagine this if your loved one is saying things like “I hate you!” or “You don’t understand and you never will!” These are often the way someone in emotion pain (or whose brain isn’t fully developed yet such as a teen or preteen) is trying to express “I’m hurting and I don’t know what to do” or “I’m feeling hopeless and I want you to help me but I don’t know how.”
In my experience over the years working with adult clients who struggled as a teen or preteen with an eating disorder or some other mental health or behavioral concern, they never wonder why their parents did too much when they were younger, but actually why they did not do more.
As a parent or caregiver, you want to help your child and the child wants you to even if they cannot express it. The gratitude will come later in life.
There is a strategy that can really help parents and caregivers to find the emotional and mental energy needed to hang in there with the process of helping their loved one. It can also help with their loved one to feel supported and understood even if it’s really really tough and they still express not wanting to change.
The strategy: Emotion Coaching
The first step to emotion coaching is: Validation.
It does not have to be a majority of the time. Even just doing this 30-40% of the time when your loved one is in emotional pain can help. It does a lot to help your loved one with their emotions.
Here’s an example: “I can completely understand how you would feel that way BECAUSE... and BECAUSE…. And BECAUSE…
Why because, because, because?
“Because” replaces the word “and” or “but” while helping convey to your loved one that you really do understand and “get it”. It allows your loved one’s emotions to lessen in intensity. It ultimately helps mend that barrier with your teen or preteen as they can better feel understood by you in what they are feeling or going through.
Once this first step is practiced and becomes more routine, you will likely find that then you can more effectively put in place the expectations that come with healthy behavior changes or recovery.
If you’d like more information on emotion coaching and how this strategy can really help parents and caregivers, check out our 4 week e-course for just $20 here!