Supporting your child to return to school - 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: My child is due to go back to school this week but won’t get out of bed!

  • Your treatment team should guide you with this. Sometimes school needs to be a secondary priority whilst they recover.
  • Consider half days or part time initially. Many parents start their child off with just mornings and bring them home for lunch and rest. Recovery from an eating disorder is extremely tiring.
  • Work with the school to formulate a plan (similar to asthma/allergy plans). What do you want them to look out for? What support can they provide? What do you want to be notified about immediately? Work with your child’s teacher to discuss reducing study load.
  • Note that you may need to provide more support and structure around your young person than you would expect for their age. They may need more directive, clear instructions around school work from their teachers to allay anxiety.
  • Lower expectations around marks and focus more on the process of re-integration into the school environment.
  • Consider excluding child from sport or nutrition classes (could be triggering for them).  You may need to have a plan with the GP regarding exemption from or re-introduction to sport.
  • Eating at school is not negotiable. How will you get it done?
  • They made need a uniform size up. This should be addressed in advance so as to avoid a melt down on the first day back. It can be helpful to just be matter of fact about the size change (“of course you need a bigger pair of pants… aren’t wearing the same ones you did in Grade 6”). Some parents find it helpful to simply buy a size up and cut off the label.
  • Have some well-rehearsed lines for questions around why they may have been absent, or why they are not doing sport (e.g. “had a problem with my heart”, “doctor is monitoring me with some issues” or, simply  “I have had anorexia but am now recovering”)

Q: How will I ensure my child eats their lunch and snacks at school?

  • Can you use FaceTime? Can be on silent so their friends aren’t aware.
  • Can you drive to the school and have your child eat in the car with you?
  • Is there a school nurse or counsellor that can sit with your child?
  • Consider transferring food or snacks into containers so they can’t calorie count.
  • Is there a strong and trusted friendship group that can report back to you (but have no responsibility in terms of encouraging eating)
  • It can be helpful to take a photo of what is in the lunch box so that if monitoring is involved the school nurse knows food hasn’t been discarded before lunch!
  • Ensure a teacher knows to report back to you if your child is late back to class after lunch (if purging has been an issue)

Part of the journey

Stepping back into life is important!  Returning to school will be anxiety provoking but will be an important part of the journey to recovery. Try to problem solve together if possible. If appropriate try to involve your loved one’s trusted teachers in making the return journey as gentle as possible.

Winding roads are ok!

Looking for further guidance?

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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