Education Return and a Possible Trigger?
It won’t have escaped your attention that many youngsters will now be returning to the classroom.
In Scotland from this week, and throughout other parts of the UK in the coming weeks, we’ll see children stepping back into the learning environment, possibly for the first time since March.
Even for those with the most stable of mental health, this could potentially be a challenging time, as new daily routines are developed, and new ‘rules’ are learned.
For those with an eating disorder, it stands to reason that this will be an even more problematic period.
Such is the nature of an eating disorder, that it thrives on maintaining obsessive repetitive patterns.
It exercises its power over a sufferer, demanding that their regime is the same as it was yesterday, the day before, and the week before that.
With the resumption of the school term, we’ll now see many young sufferers face the anxiety-provoking scenarios of changed schedules, new academic challenges, different social protocols, and a removal from the ‘comfort blanket’ of the home environment that has become their norm for so many months.
So how do we face up to the vulnerability?
Here’s a few valuable tips and insights, whether you’re the one returning to the corridors of school, or whether you’re a concerned parent or teacher who wants to ensure the safety and wellbeing of a young person:
MAINTAINING MY OWN RECOVERY AS A RETURN TO SCHOOL
- Remember that a change of routine need not derail you from any recovery progress you’ve been making in recent months. Maintain your commitment to your healthy self and continually reassure yourself that your eating disorder has no place in your future.
- Seek school support. If you’ve never done so before, identify who in the school is helpful for your pastoral care. Who will you be able to visit regularly if you start to struggle? Is there a mental health or counselling team in place? Be open about your worries from the start of the term and reassure yourself that all schools are equipped to support those who have health battles.
- Your food and eating schedule are key as you head back into school. It’s vital that you are able to regularly access the nutrition you need to stay safe and well. Talk to the school about your dining needs – whether that involves eating at a different time, in a different location, or being able to take additional snacks into your academic environment.
- Recognise your stress triggers and get adequate rest and sleep each night. Your body is still repairing itself. Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep to help you recharge. Keep the dialogue going with your school, and if you spot ‘exhaustion creep’, have a candid conversation with your pastoral team about the need for a rest day or period.
- Be prepared. Know that this change in tempo could be a new trigger for your child. Make sure they’re as rested, calm and supported as possible.
- Talk to the school. Make sure they’re fully aware of your child’s health issue. Ask them what they’ve got in place by way of eating disorder training for staff, whether there’s someone on site who your child can see quickly at a time of distress, and whether someone will be able to identify what’s happening at mealtimes for your child.
- Try not to quiz your child about their food intake every time they return home. Keep the dialogue open, trustworthy and calm.
- Get support for yourself. Eating disorders are complex, and it stands to reason that you’ll need to maintain your own resilience. Empathy helps. Identify someone you can talk to when you need to.
- Consider your wider family at all times. In particular, know that any other sibling will also be heading back to school with their own worries and will need your compassion too.
TEACHERS AND LEARNING STAFF
- Are you informed about eating disorders? Is there more information you could be gaining about the illness, in order to support a pupil if an issue arises?
- What do you have in place to make things easier for those who suffer? What’s the dining facility like? Is it clear to students who they can come to if they are struggling or need help?
- Do you use aspects of the teaching timetable to encourage more understanding of mental health and eating disorders in particular?
- Reach out to Wednesday’s Child and ask for our learning resources.
- Aug 2020