When a teen has an eating disorder, they need everyone around them to provide a safe environment that helps them focus on recovery. As a parent, you might be struggling to understand your teen’s diagnosis right now, and it is hard to know exactly where to begin with helping them rebuild their mental health. Making your home environment supportive takes time, and you can get started by using these tips to immediately help your teen manage their eating disorder.

Watch What You Say

It is common for people to say things that may be upsetting to someone with an eating disorder. For instance, you might reference how bloated you feel after a meal, or you might point out someone who is over or underweight. Try to listen to yourself as you talk, especially during mealtimes. If you notice that you make comments about needing to diet or feeling fat, then it may be best to try to stop for now.

Establish Open Communication

Your teen needs to have people in their life that they can turn to when they need to talk. Let your teen know that you will listen to anything they say without passing down judgment. 

You should also look at getting them into counseling. This is usually an important part of eating disorder treatment. They may participate in either one-on-one counseling or group therapy or a combination of both. Getting your teen counseling also gives them a wider support network that they can turn to when they are stressed out or feeling like they are going to relapse.

Make Mealtimes More Comfortable

Mealtimes can be a stressful part of the day for someone with an eating disorder, and stress can increase their symptoms. Try to hold positive conversations during mealtimes that foster a sense of support and that don’t have anything to do with the eating disorder. For instance, you might have each person share something good that happened at school or work. Setting a comfortable scene can also include physical acts such as putting flowers on the table or playing relaxing music in the background.

Get Rid of Potential Triggers

There might be objects lying around your home that are body-focused and could trigger the symptoms of your teen’s eating disorder. For now, it might be best to put the bathroom scale away so that your teen doesn’t access it when they are alone. You might also want to eliminate magazines that include images of thin models or recipe books with tempting pictures of food. Removing old photos of times when your teen was struggling the most can also help them to look forward to their future.

Life changes when you have a teen with an eating disorder, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Embrace this as an opportunity to draw closer as a family, and remember that they can overcome their disorder. Being supportive and giving your teen a safe environment to recover in helps them get the most from their treatment and learn how to establish healthier eating habits.

By Anita Ginsburg

Anita is a freelance writer from Denver, CO. She studied at Colorado State University, and now writes articles about health, business, family and finance. A mother of two, she enjoys traveling with her family whenever she isn't writing.

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