The Top 5 Things Every Parent Should Know Before Their Child Goes Back to School
It won’t be long until school begins. If your child suffers from Celiac Disease, gluten sensitivity or other food allergies, you might feel a sense of dread because you know too well the social and emotional challenges the lie ahead as you help your child manage their condition. For some of you with children with severe allergies, you may have found yourself in the emergency room a number of times because your child ate something that they shouldn’t have because they either didn’t know what was in the food or deliberately ate an offending food out of fear of being different. You may feel helpless and need a community for support and advice. Trust me, you are not alone.
As a former substitute teacher, I have firsthand experience and want to share these tips:
Be On the Lookout!
- Feelings of Isolation. It doesn’t matter what age you are. Food is a social activity. People who have food allergies often feel isolated, and it is especially true in children. Every child wants and need to feel accepted by their peers, which is important for their social development. Too often, children are singled out because they are “gluten challenged” or have other food allergies. This can make it difficult to develop relationships with others. No child wants to be labeled as “the kid with the allergy.” Labels can be destructive to a child’s self-esteem and can follow them throughout their school years and beyond. Some school policies require children to sit at separate tables during the lunch period or not partake in birthday treats at school like the other children. During my teaching days, I witnessed this practice firsthand and wondered how this practice would have socially impacted my daughter, had her gluten allergy been discovered as a young child? I’m very thankful that she discovered it after her college years.
- Bullying. Bullying has become a national epidemic they tend to pray on the vulnerable or someone who is labeled as different. I can’t stress enough to parents to be aware of the signs of bullying. This is an excellent website that will give the signs and behavior changes to look for in your child http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signs/#bullied. I also recommend the book “QUEEN BEES AND WANNABES” by Rosalind Wiseman, especially if you have a daughter. This will help you understand the mindset of the bully. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_sc_1_8?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-
- Don’t depend on the school for help. Don’t get me wrong – principals, teachers and food service workers care about your child. They want the best for each student, and they do not have any intention of being unsympathetic in dealing with food issues. For the past ten years of my substitute teaching, every school provided in-service meetings and discussed the issue to some degree. Consider asking your school administration if they would consider having a special speaker provide a seminar to inform the school staff about Celiac, gluten sensitivities and other food precautions to keep children safe. Education is the key to understanding. Many times schools will go overboard creating policies due to a lack of information and fear of liability.
- Listen to your child. Have open communication with your child, so he or she feels comfortable telling you any problems encountered at school or with friends. Be aware of any changes in their behavior and act immediately!
- Create meals for your child, which support his or her need to fit in. Cookies, brownies and cupcakes are great for birthdays. Lunches should be similar to what other students typically eat. There are many substitutions, and you can make recipes from scratch from my book!
It is my hope that you will find this blog helpful and that we can create a forum for parents to share their experiences, whether positive or negative, so that we can learn from each other and support our children.
I would like to hear your comments about problems you have encountered, as well as your successes. In upcoming blogs, we will discuss ways to help our children. Remember, you are not alone and together we will come up with ideas for the new school year.