DENVER, CO -- (Marketwire) -- 06/26/12 -- More than 10 million American children attend a camp each summer. Because these children often spend weeks -- and sometimes months -- away from parental supervision, Eating Recovery Center, an international center for eating disorders recovery, urges parents to be aware of summer camp triggers that may contribute to the development of an eating disorder in their camp-going children.
"Every year, Eating Recovery Center sees many young patients who cite summer camp as the place where their disordered eating behaviors either began or intensified," said Jamie Manwaring, PhD, primary therapist at Eating Recovery Center's Behavioral Hospital for Children and Adolescents. "It is important to recognize that summer camps do not 'cause' eating disorders; however, camps' environments can often be triggering for a child with the genetic or temperamental predisposition for an eating disorder."
The onset of puberty, typically occurring between the ages of 10 and 14 for girls and 12 and 16 for boys, is one of the two most common times when eating disorders develop. Children in this age range who have a family history of eating disorders, who have previously engaged in disordered eating or who have highly sensitive, perfectionistic temperaments may be more likely to be triggered by camp activities or situations.
Potentially triggering activities or situations may include a competitive athletic environment, exposure to bunkmates' or friends' disordered eating behaviors, an intense focus on health and nutrition or anxiety about trying to "fit in" with new camp friends. Without ongoing parental supervision, children who begin engaging in disordered eating behaviors will often maintain or intensify them throughout the duration of camp without their parents' knowledge.
To help parents plan a healthy, fun camp experience for their children and proactively practice eating disorders prevention, Eating Recovery Center offers these five tips:
1. Look into the way meals are structured at your child's camp. Are mealtimes staffed so that camp counselors sit with campers and are available to notice if a child has stopped eating or drastically changed his or her eating habits?
2. Do some comparative research if you intend on sending your child to a sports camp. Children with a family history of eating disorders may be better suited at a camp that is focused on recreation and fun, rather than one that is focused on competition and intense fitness.
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