Holidays, in combination with the ingredients of stress, preparation, and old family conflict, can be tough to swallow. Add in a teen with an eating disorder that you may have at your Thanksgiving day table and you might be facing a recipe for disaster. But, then again, maybe not.
With an estimated 10 million females struggling with eating disorders in the U.S., it’s not unlikely that you may have to face this tricky issue.
Here are some ways parents can deal most effectively with teens suffering from eating disorders during the holidays:
1. Focus the conversation on topics other than food. Avoid discussing what the teen is or is not eating. The food is already a major source of anxiety. There is no need to aggravate the situation further.
2. Suggest that they prepare for the stress of being surrounded by piles of holiday food with the professionals in their lives who are supporting them. They will, after all, need some of their own coping strategies. After all, you wouldn’t put a teen with a fear of heights on top of a 40 story building without some preparation, right?
3. Do NOT pile food on their plates. And, you may want to forewarn well-intentioned relatives about this. Allow the teen(s) to select food portions that are comfortable for them. This is neither the time nor the place for struggles.
4. Please, do not pepper the conversation with topics focused on either weight or size. There is no need to make anyone self-conscious.
5. Parents– model healthy eating habits and attitudes. Comments about how snug your jeans feel or how you’ll have to starve yourself tomorrow are certainly not helpful. You are your teen’s most important role models. And believe me they are watching you!