I write today as a parent first and a psychologist second. Words are not coming to me like they usually do. The senseless tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary has shaken us all to the core. As I write this post, the tears continue to flow. I sometimes wonder if the tears will ever stop.
But instead of resisting the tears, I embrace them. They represent the connectedness of humanity. Those children were our children, those teachers our teachers, their loss is our loss…except that most have us have been spared the sight of their empty seats at the kitchen table, their teddy bears collecting dust, the memories of their eyes lighting up at school pick-up each day, and the bedtime cuddles that every parent wants to hold onto forever. On December 14, 2012, the parents of those Sandy Hook first graders had no choice.
What does this have to do with family-based treatment? Everything.
As a psychologist, I choose to practice this method—a method that can be excruciatingly difficult, challenging, and exhausting. Why? Because it saves the lives of children. I have seen it first-hand.
One of the stark realities of parenthood is that we are often powerless to prevent bad things from happening to our children. We want to shield our kids from so many things and are often unable to do so. Usually the stakes are not life and death. It was at Sandy Hook, and it is in eating disorders treatment.
We know that more people die of eating disorders than any other psychiatric illness.
We also know that there are treatments that can prevent this dire end, but only if those treatments are implemented.
Thankfully parents do have power in treatment decisions. If you have a child who has been diagnosed with an eating disorder—or who you suspect has an eating disorder—trust your instincts. Talk to other parents, read. You are the expert in your own family and, in this case, you have the opportunity to save your child’s life. If only the Sandy Hook parents could say the same.