My other relatives are interfering

For some families the extended family can be a godsend. Helpful relatives will step in from time to time to give the carers and other siblings a break. The anorexic child might find it easier to express his feelings to a favourite uncle or granny and that could be key to helping him over his illness.

Unfortunately, for many families the extended family insists on interfering and making unhelpful comments such as:

• He's always been a difficult child.

• Mental illness runs in the family.

• Once an anorexic always an anorexic.

• You shouldn't have sent him to that childminder/ boarding school and so on.

• You gave him too much freedom.

• You didn't give him enough freedom.

It is stressful enough looking after an anorexic child and the rest of your family without having this sort of external pressure. It is important to decide at an early stage who you want to be involved and who you don't. Encourage your helpful relatives to learn as much as they can about the illness and they may then be in a position to be extremely helpful. Try to discourage those who are prone to making negative comments from getting involved. You might have to be incredibly thick skinned and/or blunt, but you don't need extra pressure from interfering relatives.

There is no doubt that anorexia affects the whole family. Some members may be affected more than others. Some might not be affected at all. What is important is that the whole family works together to try and help the sufferer pull through. Some families might find it easy to sit down and talk about their problems and/or issues and come up with a plan of action to resolve them. Most families don't find this easy. Family therapy is a very useful way of bringing a family together for a set time on a regular basis. Family therapists are trained to help the family identify issues and to set about resolving them. It is not easy to accept that your family might benefit from family therapy, but for many families it has been an invaluable tool in helping one of their family members get over anorexia. This topic is dealt with in more detail in Chapter 9.

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