In the BACC Y-ministry, we help teenagers build lasting confidence, close friendships, and vision for what God has planned for their future. In order to build these things, one of the biggest challenges I fought as a teenager and that I’ve seen other teen girls fight is the battle with body image and eating disorders. This is a battle that is very important for parents to understand, as eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia often develop in the teen years.
In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.
Luckily, God provides hope for any battle and power to scale any wall, including the “walls” of an eating disorder. In honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness week, here are some things we think parents should know:
1. Recognize the battle early!
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Many parents don’t want to believe their teen could develop an eating disorder. The idea of having an eating disorder can be frightening for both teens and parents, and sometimes it seems safer to believe things like: “it’s not that big of a deal.” But like the Bible says in the above scripture, telling the truth can set us free from anything enslaving, even body image insecurites and disordered eating patterns.
2. Teens can hide their symptoms.
In a recent article about eating disorders, parenting columnist Sue Scheff explains that teens with eating disorders are often in denial. Take a look at the symptoms she outlines; if you are aware as a parent you can help your teen get the help they need.
3. Don’t go it alone.
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
1 Corinthians 10:13
If your teen is struggling with eating and body image, they are not the only one who needs help. Parents and siblings need support and faith too. God gives us a way out when we feel we can’t make it anymore, and many times the way out is through friendships. At the BACC we believe in supporting and helping each other, and being involved in each others’ lives to help each other find faith.
4. Let go of your fear and guilt.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.
1 John 4:18
Many parents feel afraid that they have caused their child’s eating disorder, and their guilt can make them not seek help. However, when we are afraid we can’t love others like we need to. Eating disorders have many different causes; parents who want to help their children have to let go of their fear and guilt to help their teen the support they need.
5. Help your teen find faith
Let them praise the LORD for his great love
and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
9 For he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.
As I have battled my eating disorder, this has become one of my favorite scriptures. It helps me remember that God can ultimately satisfy my spiritual hunger and emptiness, and give me the confidence and security I have looked for in a thin body for so many years. Parents can help their teens find this kind of faith by modeling it themselves, and by helping their teen get involved in the Y-ministry to learn more about God themselves.