Sunday, April 21, 2013

Does My Child Feel Loved?

Last week I asked for prayer for my friend's daughter regarding anorexia and depression. If you've remembered Chelsea this week, I thank you.

After hearing a little more about her condition last week, I came home from church feeling desperate to help. I didn't feel completely confident that my friend understood the gravity of the situation...that 20% of sufferers die from this disease, and that most will battle it for the rest of their lives, fighting daily to drown Satan's voice.

I came home and just sat in a chair, feeling extremely anxious. I don't just listen to people's problems. I feel them. Sometimes this tendency drives my husband crazy.

I remembered Emily's book, Chasing Silhouettes, and immediately ordered it, thinking as soon as it came, I would call my friend and take it straight over.

 

But my plans were foiled by my husband's dead car battery. He had to take the van and so instead, I started reading the book.

What a treasure of life-giving information for every parent. As much as I wanted the book in my friend's hand ASAP, I'm grateful God spoiled my plans and allowed me to read it first instead. I'll be honest...it was frightening. A true wake up call for every parent.

Here is what I learned:

Love, Love, Love

When parents have a keen interest or distraction--business, gardening, reading, sewing, exercising, scrap-booking, writing, painting, whatever--they have to be very careful not to put the interest above their children's needs. When we're stressed we can resort to escapism. Satan wants us to escape, whereas God wants to heal and renew us.

When we're not accessible our children feel unloved. Period. It doesn't matter how much we think we love them...love is expressed through putting others first. Be careful of saying to your child too often: "Just a second, Honey, I just need to finish this e-mail...finishing getting these flowers into the ground...finish contacting these clients...finish this scrapbooking page."

Emily, who almost died twice from this disease--once at age 13, and again as a married woman at age 26--felt, above all, unloved. Her first battle lasted 4 years, and her relapse lasted 3 years. This disease works slowly and steadily and in the end, the patient must choose life or death, literally.

Pick Your Battles

Secondly, Emily felt controlled. Her battle started at the age of 9 years old. She couldn't choose her food or her clothes or her friends. She couldn't watch TV or play with Barbies. As a pastor's child, she led a tightly controlled life. Slowly starving herself over the course of 4 years started as an act of rebellion. She loved the feeling of control; no one could make her eat. The more they tried, the stronger the disease became.

Over time the disease consumed her and she became the disease--a mere shadow of the girl God created. She nearly destroyed herself and her family but she didn't care; she thought she looked beautiful in her skeletal state. It's shocking how Satan can deceive us.

Many of us have a picky eater in our house and this book reminds usnever let mealtime become a battleground.

Don't force a child to eat a certain amount. Give healthy choices and let them choose their portions and what they'll dish up for themselves. Don't be overly restrictive with sweets and don't label some foods good and some bad. Eat intuitively, modeling balance. God gives food as a gift.

Especially vulnerable are strong-willed, sensitive children who may be people-pleasing perfectionists. Be especially careful in not allowing food to become a battleground with this child. Kids learn early that their food intact can give them power over mom and dad.

I heard a pastor say once, in regard to parenting: "Only say no when you can't say yes." Provide every child with a reasonable amount of control over negotiable things.

Mind Your Words

I've always secretly thought that larger-boned people were fortunate in that they could gain a little weight and it didn't show. Small-boned people, like myself, have to be more careful. But right away as I read this book, I learned not to talk or think in terms of bone size or body frame at all.  Many girls want to have small bones. They want a "petite" label, even if God had other ideas when he created them.

Men don't care about bone size, but girls/women may. Affirm your child just the way God created her, without using labels.

If you become concerned about weight gain in a child, never nag about or mention the gain. Just provide healthy choices. Even after recovery, innocent words about weight gain, or even, "You are looking healthy" can become a trigger for relapse.

Affirm your child in more than just physical ways. It's good to say she's beautiful, but also acknowledge her painting gift or her helping gift or her teaching gift. Notice her, know her, and affirm her always.

Refrain from making any negative comments about your own body size or looks. Be grateful and comfortable in your own skin, for you've been fearfully and wonderfully made.

Pray For Healing Of Your Own Heart

The ideal mother, if she exists at all, is one who recognizes her worth in Jesus Christ. If you have past, unhealed wounds, they will affect your parenting. Pray that God heals you in your deepest hurting places so you can love unconditionally. A redeemed person loves others without fear. A hurting person seeks to protect herself, living selfishly without even realizing it.

I highly recommend Emily's book for all parents, especially if you have daughters. It can halt the mother-daughter thing in its tracks before it becomes destructive and dangerous, and it can prevent father-daughter dysfunction as well.

That said, it's important to remember that anorexia is never the parents' fault: a child chooses not to eat. And in the end, the child must choose to get well. She must choose life and love. Treatment plans go no where if a child doesn't want to recover.

Affirming our children is prevention...not just with our words, but our actions. We must make time for each child, learning their love language and prayerfully seeking to meet their needs consistently.

Studies show that there may be a genetic predisposition to this condition, but the disease itself is almost always triggered by excessive environmental stress. Emily's was probably triggered by the death of a beloved grandma figure.

I close today with this thought...one I've shared several times:

Parenting is a prayer.

Never stop praying, for we are flawed and we need our Heavenly Father's divine intervention. His grace showers us, eclipsing our brokenness.

I will present the book quietly tomorrow at church and I pray it's read that same day. Please pray with me?

Giving Thanks Today

Thank you, Father, for these blessings and graces:

~ For Emily's brave book reminding me to be an accessible mother, no matter my stress level.

~ For the transforming power of prayer. I don't have to be perfect; I just have to be on my knees.

~ For my husband's love for and devotion to our children.

~ For one of our Bible Study children praying aloud for the first time.

~ For the strength to say I'm sorry.

~ For pain that grows into wisdom, that helps others.

~ For redemption by the blood of the lamb

~ For four children, wild and beautiful.

~ For leaves unfurling on our trees. Praise God for color.

~ For sunshine, even if there was a little snow mixed in this morning.

~ For exciting homeschool curriculum on my bookshelves

~ For the wisdom to look for the beautiful.

What's beautiful in your life today, my friend?



4 comments:

Composed By Grace said...

Thank you for the beautiful devotional to accompany your list. Have a lovely week! Grace

Christine said...

Thank you, Grace, for stopping by from Ann's. I appreciate your kind comment. :)

Court Dan said...

I saw this book before and was wondering how it was, thanks for the insightful review!

Tesha Papik said...

I must of missed your post last week I will pray for your friend daughter. WOW this sounds like a good book I will have to put it on my to get list. I struggled with eating as a teen leaning more to binge eating then extreme exercising or not eating for days. I thought eating treats was bad and so I would overeat because I never ate then and then feel guilty and have to do something about it. I teach my kids you can eat all things in moderation but I would love to read this book to get more tips. Thanks for sharing it with us:)