the holidays can be tough when your child suffers from an eating disorder. let us try to help!
Why can holidays be a challenging time for people with eating disorders?
They are painfully difficult for people with eating disorders for several reasons. This is a time of year of higher stress anyway, as the holidays are about family, emotion and high levels of connection. This means food is everywhere and is at the center of connection. People are worried about their family members commenting on their weight or assessing their food intake. They are greatly worried about eating foods they did not prepare and therefore lacking the control of what is in them. There is a lot of diet talk around the table, but also in the media. These and other issues create anticipatory stress for the person with the eating disorder. Some common concerns are fearing weight gain and a sense of lacking control around the food. People with eating disorders might also be scared that others will find out about their eating disorders during the holidays since eating is more central to the holiday experience.
What are some tips for helping your child cope with an eating disorder during the holidays?
Help your child navigate the family process.. Tell your family members to limit any food or diet talk. Tell your family to not discuss or many comments about your child's body for good or bad - perceived compliments are often not helpful either, as the eating disorder will twist the connotation and hear most things as "I'm fat," or "I've gained a lot of weight," or whatever it is.
How can parents set boundaries with other family members who might be present?
Remember you own your home - you can set boundaries.I know many families who simply say their home is a diet-free zone so no diet talk is allowed.
What are some resources you can suggest for parents who are coping with this alongside their child?
Get ahead of the game - be proactive not reactive. Discuss a plan with your child and your family. Have a coping plan for your child if they become overwhelmed. Consider how to incorporate their mealplan into the day. Perhaps you make their plate instead of them feeling overwhelmed. Work as a team so your child knows you are there to support. You can also limit the amount of places you go to where eating is involved, this is especially helpful if your child is at the beginning stages of recovery and is very overwhelmed. Finally - these are deadly disorders. Take them seriously and do not believe your child will 'grow out of this' - eating disorders a not a phase. This is the time to get help so involve a professional team immediately, as that is associated with long-term better outcomes.
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