Returning to School with an Eating Disorder


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Preparing for Back to School While in Eating Disorder Recovery

Has your child or teen taken time off from school during eating disorder recovery? If so, as a parent, you may be trying to decide if he or she is ready to return to school this year. Returning to school in recovery from an Eating Disorder can be both exciting and challenging. Here are a few practical things to consider when sending your child or teen back to school, plus a look at how we support our clients’ academic success during their care at Selah House.

Deciding When It’s Time to Return to School

Heading back to school after discharging from a higher level of care can be a confusing and challenging time for many students. In the past, students may have engaged in Eating Disorder behaviors at school (for example, hiding in the bathroom at lunch or purging after meals), meaning the return to school may trigger difficult memories and potentially remind them of past behaviors. Further, returning to school may mean they will no longer have the continual support and guidance they had during their stay in a higher level of care.

Finally, studies have shown that individuals with eating disorders often exhibit perfectionistic behaviors. For children and adolescents who suffering from Eating Disorders, this often means placing a great deal of pressure on themselves to excel at academics and extracurricular activities which can sometimes trigger eating disorder behaviors. Returning to school after time away during treatment can be especially difficult since there may be added pressure and ultimately may induce falling back into old patterns of rigidity and perfectionism, making it more likely to engage in ED behaviors.

In lieu of these potential challenges, it is important to carefully determine if your child or teen is ready to return to school this year. Selah House provides the following questions to ask when deciding if sending your child or teen back to school is most appropriate . In addition to considering these questions, we encourage parents to consult their teen’s treatment team and to best determine the best course of action for sustainable recovery.

  • Is she completing meals consistently with minimal or no prompting/support?
  • Is he able to concentrate without constantly being consumed with eating disorder thoughts?
  • Does she effectively use skills to avoid engaging in ED behaviors (purging, compulsive exercise)?
  • Is he able to handle and adjust to unexpected changes in food options or schedule?
  • Is she demonstrating openness and honesty about ED behaviors? 

Returning to School With an Eating Disorder

If you, your child or teen, and dedicated team of professionals have decided that returning to school is the best course of action, the next step is to prepare for their return to school. We suggest preparing early so when the time comes for them to return to school, they feel equipped and ready to continue to pursue recovery.

  • Establish a Support System: Connect with the school’s counselor/support staff to let them know about your child’s challenges. Also, work collaboratively with your teen and school system to develop a point person at school if a problem arises and discuss appropriately ways in which to best communicate your needs during a potential crisis.
  • Organize a Nutrition Plan: Depending on the stage in your child’s recovery, , it may be necessary for her to eat meals with supervision at school. Develop a collaborative plan with your teen and school system to ensure that supervision is maintained on a consistent basis. Also, a collaborative conversation with the treatment team and school official may be necessary to discuss appropriate meal support.
  • Consider Slow Integration: When your child or teen returns to school while practicing recovery, it is important for parents and school officials to help clients slowly re-integrate back into school and daily living. This slow re-integration may look like taking on a smaller workload and gradually increasing, as necessary, especially if your child is enrolled in an Intensive Outpatient program outside of school hours. Remember, it is perfectly fine to maintain at a slow pace and even take a break to continue to focus on recovery.
  • Intentionally Decide on Extracurricular Activities: With the added challenges of maintain recovery and gradual re-integration into school and daily living a collaborative conversation involving the treatment team may be recommended to discuss participation in extracurricular activities. Again, this re-integration may be a slow process, so it is important to continue to maintain a collaborative conversation with your teen and the treatment team to ensure the most optimal decision for sustained recovery.

Selah House: Our Approach to Academics While in Care

At Selah House, we understand that life doesn’t stop while in treatment, which is why we are committed to helping clients continue their academic success while in our care. Our certified teacher works alongside our clients and families by communication with the school system to establish individualized goals for coursework completion.

We understand the challenging decision to begin the journey of recovery, especially during this time of uncertainty. Our mission is to support and accommodate our clients and families by providing a flexible environment that offers a programming structure allocating time and space for academic success.

If you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, we are here and ready to help. Contact our Admission team with One Call, Many Solutions at (765) 641-0022 or feel free to visit our website at and complete our contact form.

“For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh but serve to one another through love.” – Galatians 5:13

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