My child has an eating disorder and is going back to school soon. How do we prepare?

August 16th, 2015 by

For teenagers with eating disorders, going back to school can bring up many stressful emotions. They spend around 7 hours a day away from their parents and have numerous opportunities to engage in their eating disorder behaviors. Here is how parents can help their children’s recovery.

1. Speak to your child’s teachers/ nurse/ guidance counselor

It is important for the people who are in charge of your child throughout the day be aware of your child’s diagnosis. Teachers often notice when a child is lethargic, isolating, or engaging in other abnormal behaviors throughout the day. Many parents tell their child’s teachers to email them if their child’s behavior is worrisome so that they can address it with their child at home and in therapy. School nurses and social workers are also great resources. If your child is having trouble finishing her lunch, many parents send their children to eat with the nurse in private to make sure their child is receiving the proper nutrition throughout the day.

2. Stay in close contact with your child’s sports coach

If your child has been approved to participate in school sports, make sure the coach is aware of your child’s eating disorder. The coach will ensure your child is properly hydrated as well as keep an eye on any excessive exercising. Sports can be a very positive outlet for many teenagers with eating disorders, particularly with those struggling with bulimia. If your child is not approved for group sports, ask your doctor about other activities, such as gentle yoga, which can be very helpful in the recovery process.

3. Involve your child’s support system

With your child’s permission (and only if you have her permission,) talk to a friend who know about her eating disorder and ask her to contact you if she ever feels concerned. This is a great way to make sure your teenager has support not only from the adults in her life but from her peers as well. It will also ensure that your daughter has people she can turn to throughout the school day if she needs support.

With a little planning and a lot of communication, your child will be ready for a success new school year.

Sara Sharnoff Chesley is an in-home eating disorder therapist in Charleston, SC.  For more information, contact her at