Tips for the holidays when your child has an eating disorder - Eating Disorders Victoria
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Caring for someone with an eating disorder can be an isolating and at times overwhelming journey, and we here at EDV are committed to supporting you on this journey. The content in this article is written by carers who have lived your journey, and survived! To subscribe to receive a monthly newsletters for Carers Coaches, please see here.

Q: We have booked a family holiday with relatives - should we cancel it?

Many families report that travelling is really difficult with a young person in the throes of an eating disorder but if you do find that it is necessary to travel for family functions or events or have a pre planned vacation, we have some hints and tips to help!

  • Plan ahead – just like you would when travelling with toddlers. Perhaps have an esky in the car filled with snacks such as Sustagen drinks, cheese & biscuits etc. and restock each day of your journey.
  • Try to keep a routine and don’t overload the trip with activities.  Perhaps choose self catering accommodation so that you can prepare the meals and keep regular meal times.
  • If driving or traveling for long distances decide ahead as to where you might stop for lunch. This can be somewhere predictable and accessible (e.g. Subway) and try to keep the lunch at the same time each day to ease the anxiety of your young person.
  • If eating out at restaurants, look at the menu ahead and pre-choose so there will be no surprises or anxiety. It can be helpful to eat at a restaurant that does not include the calorie count as part of the menu. Ask for two plates and serve a sufficient amount for your young person. It can be very difficult for your young person to choose on their own.
  • It is ok to play a family game, such as Uno, at the restaurant table!

Q: I am worried that my Mother/Father/Family/relatives will upset my child and cause added stress. What should I do?

  • Consider explaining your situation in advance. Weigh up the need for your child’s privacy vs the need for family support. This could be done via an email and perhaps linking into Laura Hill’s Ted Talk video which explains to relatives how difficult things are for you loved one right now.
  • If having a meal at a relatives consider having a “code” for if your young person needs a break from triggering food talk or from the meal itself. Perhaps a close relative can be included to assist with distraction if needed. Your young person may feel uncomfortable with not knowing what is to come when eating at someone else’s house so try to have a tag out plan if need be.
  • Consider taking them to a separate room and complete the meal if they are finding sitting amongst everyone too stressful.
  • Is it easier if your young person “sits at the kids table”?  Younger children often eat with abandon and joy and this modelling can be beneficial to assist your young person with their own eating.

Watch the food talk!

You can ask family that there be no weight or diet talk. However, even with the best intentions there may still be triggering things said by well meaning relatives! “Aren’t you having any dessert?”, “Oh I will need to diet for a week after this”, “No dinner for me tonight…..” Some strategies around this could be:

  • Change the subject
  • Tell a joke
  • Blow on a party blower, pop some party poppers, pull open the crackers!
  • It is fine to say “I would prefer we talk about something else”
  • Think up some useful phrases to say beforehand.
  • Tell your loved one it is ok to walk away from triggering conversations.

General tips for gatherings

  • Take the focus off food. You might offer a choice of food to your loved one and then once the meal is complete, clear the table and move on to fun activities
  • Offer a doggy bag for your young person to take home with them to enjoy some of the treats without feeling they are being watched
  • Plan other outings that are not food related. Cinema, theatre or shopping outings together.
  • Focus on gratitude for how far you have come and any progress you have made
  • Enjoy time spent with your loved one for the wonderful person they are rather than their eating disorder.

Post-gathering anxiety

Whilst your young person may seemingly (and bravely) manage a family gathering they can often feel intense anxiety in the days afterwards. This is the perfect time to keep them busy, plan other activities and remember that support is available.

Lifeline 131114

Butterfly Foundation 1800 334673

Kids Helpline 1800 551 800

EDV (from Jan 4th) – 1300 550 236

 

Find out how EDV can help

We have a range of services that provide practical and understanding support to Victorian parents, care givers and other loved ones.

Learn more about our services for carers
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