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3 Ways You Can Help Your Teen Establish Positive Habits to Fight an Eating Disorder

With the alarming rise of COVID-19, more and more people who experience eating disorders are opting for day treatment services rather than residential services. In many cases, this treatment can be virtual sessions – and this makes it all the more important that parents know how to support recovery. To help your child be as successful as possible through their treatment, there are a handful of positive habits you can encourage at home for your child and the rest of the household.

Social Activities

Even before social distancing and self-isolation, eating disorders often resulted in social withdrawal, according to NEDA's Parent Toolkit. Social withdrawal can be caused by several factors, such as a negative body image that leads an individual to wish to remain unseen by their “skinny” peers, or because they don’t want to eat in public. 

Because of this, re-acclimation to socializing and activities with peers, friends, and family is a key component of many eating disorder treatment programs. In the current crisis, this is obviously more difficult, but there are workarounds using technology through group therapies and activities. At home, the parent's job is to carry over this guidance and also encourage social interaction.

Even if, for the moment, people can’t congregate for their social interactions, virtual interactions can help lessen the burden of social isolation.It’s best to start small especially if the individual’s self-isolation has been going on for a long time. For example, a streaming movie party where your teen and another both watch the same movie while streaming on an app like Zoom. This way, they can share a social experience without too much pressure to talk, and without risking infection. Some other options might include:

  • Interactive video games with voice chat
  • Learning how to play an instrument and virtual jam sessions
  • Study sessions with several peers and a tutor or teacher

Self-Care

Negative and distorted body image is almost always a contributing factor in eating disorders, and it is common with depression and anxiety cases as well. One troubling result of this is a tendency for people with poor body image to lose motivation to take care of themselves. Encouraging good self-care regimens can reverse this trend in people with different eating disorders in a few ways, including

  • Encourages acceptance of one's natural body shape 
  • Encourages a deeper connection with the body's overall health and wellness
  • Encourages a positive outlook on life, food, and exercise

Many of the self-care activities taught at eating disorder day treatment or residential programs are possible during quarantine or self-isolation. While some of the more “traditional” methods of self-care, like getting a massage or taking a vacation are temporarily on hold, there are several “stay-at-home” things you can encourage to promote self-care:

  • Nature walks with family
  • Meditating or doing yoga
  • Listening to your favorite music or catching up on reading

These kinds of activities are not only safe during the age of coronavirus, but they often incorporate well into self-image rehabilitation programs provided by day treatment programs.

Journaling

Keeping a journal for self-reflection and to put emotions into words is central to not only most eating disorder treatment programs, but for treatment of most types of mental health disorders. A journal allows an individual to validate their own feelings and gain a deeper sense of self-awareness. During this time of social distancing, it’s a therapeutic technique that can be performed via teleconference, making journaling an ideal habit for someone in recovery from an eating disorder.

A central aspect of recovery from an eating disorder, both during active treatment and after the program is complete, is replacing disordered behavior and activity with positive alternatives. These techniques are just a start – your local treatment center or therapist will have more options and ideas. If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, don't wait. Reach out to your doctor or counselor and start on the journey to recovery today. 

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