If the school becomes aware of a pupil’s eating disorder before the parents then it’s important to invite parents on board to work with you to support their child’s recovery.
Once you have overcome any objections from the pupil, you should aim to organise a meeting with the parents as quickly as possible.
This post looks at how to organise the meeting and how to ensure it runs effectively
Think about location
With the help of the pupil, decide where the meeting should be held – at school, in their home or on neutral territory. You should do whatever you think will make the pupil, and their parents, feel most comfortable.
Who should attend?
Obviously the pupil and their parents should be present, the pupil may also like to bring a friend along for support and you might decide to have a couple of different members of staff present – for instance the head of pastoral care and the pupil’s form tutor. Again, you should check with the pupil about what they’ll feel comfortable with and try not to set up a scenario which will be too intimidating for the parent.
The room setup is important
Try to make sure that the room setup lends itself to open conversation – a round table, or no table at all feels less intimidating to all involved than being pitched against each other across a desk. Make sure the room is a comfortable temperature and that there will be absolutely no interruptions. Phones should be off and minds should be focused.
Make sure you have tea and tissues!
Tea or water will give people something to hold and divert their attention to during the more difficult moments – also you’re all likely to do a lot of talking so you may get thirsty. Tissues too are a must. This is likely to be a very emotionally charged meeting for all involved. That’s okay as you’ll all soon be working together to make things better.
When outlining the pupil’s eating disorder to their parents, try to explain it objectively. “We think Jane may be suffering from Anorexia… anorexia is…” is better than emotively charged statements such as “We’ve been distraught with worry, the weight has been dropping off Jane and she just hasn’t seemed happy for weeks.”
Focus on practical steps
This is not the place to dwell on WHY the pupil has developed an eating disorder. Your job is not to look back but to look forwards at the practical steps towards helping the pupil get better. Pscyhologists or counsellors far more qualified than you will explore the underlying reasons for the eating disorder with the pupil. Your job is to work with the parents to ensure that pupil receives that help.
Agree next steps
By the end of the meeting, everyone should be agreed about what the next steps are and who is responsible. This will probably involve the pupil and their parents visiting the family doctor and you might also like to arrange another meeting in a week or two to follow up.
Share your contact details and be available
Make sure that you give the parents your contact details and ensure that they feel welcome to use them. Let them know the best time to contact you. They are likely to have questions after the meeting as they will have had a huge amount to take in and to come to terms with.
If you would like further support, Pooky can deliver an eating disorder training session at your school or college.
You may also be interested in other free eating disorder resources I have uploaded: [gallery_bank type=”individual” format=”masonry” title=”true” desc=”false” responsive=”true” animation_effect=”fadeIn” album_title=”true” album_id=”3″] [gallery_bank type=”individual” format=”masonry” title=”true” desc=”false” responsive=”true” animation_effect=”fadeIn” album_title=”true” album_id=”4″]