Day treatment programs are a great option for eating disorder recovery on their own, but day treatment programs for teens are most successful when parents make additional efforts to encourage positive thinking and behaviors. When helping their children navigate the balance between school, socializing and a day treatment program, there are a handful of positive habits that should be encouraged at home – for both the parents and the child working towards a life free of the throes of eating disorders.

Don’t Forget the Importance of Being Social and Making Friends

According to NEDA's Parent Toolkit, social withdrawal is both a result and a causative factor of eating disorders of all type, from anorexia nervosa to ARFID.  Social withdrawal can occur when an adolescent spends a lot of time focusing on restricting certain behaviors (like eating in public), feels shameful or unpopular because of the way they look or their eating habits, or simply because they have a poor body image and feel uncomfortable in social situations. Because of this, day treatment programs for teens usually place great emphasis on promoting socialization and positive attitudes toward interacting with peers both at the treatment center and at school. At home, the parent's job is to carry over this guidance and also encourage social interaction. 

Oftentimes reincorporating social activities should start out small; they can be something as simple as talking to other teens in a similar situation while undergoing day treatment for their disorder. Or it can be a small outside excursion that teens enjoy whether they are undergoing treatment or not. For example, taking a teen to see a movie requires them to be around people, but they do not necessarily have to interact, so this could be a starter activity.

Parents can supplement the activities provided by day treatment programs with other low-pressure situations like:

  • Taking part in community charity events 
  • Volunteering time at local churches or youth groups
  • Joining an art or drawing class
  • Attending festivals or sports events with friends

There are numerous ways to get your teen interested again in interacting with the family and perhaps some of their own peers from school or social circles. 

Emphasize the Importance of Self-Care

Body dysmorphia (otherwise known as a negative body image) or a low self-esteem are common factors in adolescent eating disorders, and they can impede a teen's ability to experience joy in life. This is something day treatment programs strive to help an adolescent patient overcome by helping them remember to take care of themselves in little ways and big. Encouraging good self-care regimens can help people with different eating disorders in a few ways, including

  • Improving body-image perceptions
  • Encouraging mindfulness about their own well-being
  • Encourages activities that improve mood and anxiety levels

Adolescent eating disorder day treatment programs should always include tips and tricks for teens to engage in self-care. Self-care can be something luxurious or provided by someone else, such as getting a massage or manicure, but it can also consist of little personal moments that are encouraged every day, such as:

  • Taking a walk in nature
  • Yoga or a 10-minute meditation session
  • Playing an instrument
  • Watching an episode of a silly TV show she loves

By encouraging these activities or something similar, the things your child learns during the time spent at the day treatment center will be carried over into their time at home. 


Keeping a journal is often taught at eating disorder treatment centers for teens, and with good reason; it can be an integral part of mental health treatment.  Self-understanding comes from following through with the efforts to help yourself comprehend their own behaviors, triggers for relapse and thoughts as they relate to both eating disorders and life in the larger sense. If the day treatment center the teen visits does not already require journaling as part of their therapeutic process, this can be something parents can encourage your child to do at home – and parents can supplement the encouragement if the center does make it a central part of their program.

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