Everywhere you look during the holidays, the highlight of many gatherings is coming together around a table full of food. While this might sound enjoyable to a lot of people, if you have a teenager suffering from an eating disorder, this overindulgent time of year might turn into a very stressful season.
Instead of feeling joy, someone suffering from an eating disorder feels fear and panic when these situations occur. Even worse is when others do not understand how food can make them feel so much anxiety. This lack of understanding leads to even more feelings of isolation and only enhances their stress.
So how can a parent protect their child during the holidays? These guidelines and tips can help ease the whole family through this challenging season.
Keep Celebrations Simple
- Focus on taking care of your family and your child suffering from an eating disorder. Don’t strive for a picture-perfect holiday like the ones you see on television.
- Choose activities that are not centered around food. For example, work on a jigsaw puzzle together as a family instead. This is an activity that can bring calmness and peace of mind.
- Helping others in need keeps things in perspective. Use any extra time for your family to connect with people and even get some needed rest.
- Keep any gatherings short – only go to an event for an afternoon or an evening and it won’t feel so overwhelming for your child.
- Don’t overschedule as it can lead to missed meals and grabbing fast food instead of sticking to the treatment protocol.
Prepare for the Season
- Have compassion for yourself and your loved one during this time.
- Don’t compare this holiday to others in the past.
- Set realistic goals and expectations.
- Speak to your child’s therapist before the holiday season to get advice and go over your concerns.
- Ask your relatives in advance not to comment on your child’s appearance or eating habits.
Beware of Binging
- If binge eating is a problem keep any trigger foods out of the house when possible.
- Don’t allow your family member to get overly hungry before an event.
- Don’t let your child deprive him or herself. Ask their doctor how to include holiday treats while still staying on track.
The Holiday Help Your Teen Needs
For someone suffering from an eating disorder, an ordinary meal can be torture. But when you add in the holidays plus the stress it brings with food pressure and nosy relatives, celebrations can be nightmares. Continue to support your child’s eating disorder treatment and get the help they need during the holiday season. Contact us for information on our individualized plans and to learn your options.