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Alder Hey issues advice for Christmas after rise in eating disorders within children during 2020

4 years ago

Alder Hey issues advice for Christmas after rise in eating disorders within children during 2020

Alder Hey Children’s Charity is working closely with the specialist Eating Disorders Youth Service (EDYS) at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust to raise awareness of how difficult the Christmas period can be for children and young people with an eating disorder.

The EDYS has seen a big increase in referrals during the COVID pandemic and over the festive season, families up and down the country will be gathering for Christmas dinner. For those children and young people with eating disorders, this can have a negative effect on their mental health.

Every child and young person with an eating disorder will experience their condition in a way unique to them, but it is common for them to have feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame around their condition.

Lisa Cooper, Director of Community & Mental Health Services at Alder Hey, said:

“We have seen a large increase in referrals for children and young people with eating disorders this year compared to last, and a significant increase in the most severe cases, which are most likely due to late presentations because of the COVID pandemic and necessary restrictions around GP visiting and remote schooling.

“Changes to patterns and routines around eating can be difficult for children and young people with eating disorders, especially around Christmas and New Year. Planning mealtimes ahead and involving children and young people can really help to reduce their anxiety and help them to feel more secure and supported. Make the focus of the day about ‘togetherness’ and sharing a special time, rather than food and drink, but do encourage everyone to be part of the meal preparations, such as setting and decorating the Christmas table. Table games and Christmas crackers are also good because they provide a distraction and help put the emphasis firmly on ‘togetherness.”

Recognising the triggers of children and young people with an eating disorder and working together as a family to reduce triggering experiences can really help them to feel supported.

The team at Alder Hey has gathered a few supportive tips from NHS England for families facing these challenges this festive season, to help every member of the family enjoy this special time of year.

  • minimise the social expectations of people with eating disorders over the festive period
  • treat meals on Christmas Day as routinely as possible
  • serve food as a buffet if possible rather than as sit-down meals
  • plan ahead and think about how food features in the day
  • once dinner is over, shift the focus on to other activities like playing games or watching a family film

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