Food allergies create a multitude of everyday challenges. To make matters worse, many children are bullied because of their food allergies. Such nonsensical actions affect approximately 79 percent of kids with food allergies.
As a food allergy parent, it can be disheartening to see your child get harassed over food sensitivities they can’t control. If your child is being bullied at school, here are some of the ways you can help.
1. Encourage them to report it.
Many kids are afraid to report bullying out of fear of backlash — bullies know this, and often use it to their advantage. However, it’s a fact that reporting the incident improves the situation more so than ignoring it. Tell your child to report the bullying incident to an adult, such as a teacher or counselor, right away.
2. Don’t ignore it.
School bullies aren’t uncommon, but this doesn’t mean you should assume that your child will outgrow the effects of bullying. Insist that your child tell you if anyone ever bothers them, even if they are afraid or embarrassed.
It takes guts to admit to being bullied. If your child wants to open up to you about it, drop everything and listen. Providing emotional support is one of the most important things you can do to help your child overcome the effects of bullying.
No, you can’t be with your child 24 hours a day. But you can take steps to make sure you’re a strong presence in their life. Make sure every adult in contact with your child is up to speed on their condition, as well as the signs and symptoms of a reaction.
5. Build a support network.
Your child is definitely not alone. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) estimates that food allergies affect three million children. Food allergies themselves can make kids feel isolated, and this may be worsened by bullying. Consider helping your child build a group of friends who also have food allergies. That way, they can stick together.
6. Make lunch an easier experience.
The ACAAI also reports that 57 percent of kids with food allergies have been harassed with the very foods they’re allergic to. While you can’t change your kid’s allergies, you can help make their lunches inconspicuously different. Focus on the foods they love (and can eat) — maybe other kids will be jealous!
7. Get involved.
Learning more about your child’s school routine, and their classmates, will better help you spot bullies and situations where bullying might happen. While being at every event can get some older kids teased, having a presence makes bullies aware that a parent is involved and knows what’s going on.
8. Remove them from the situation.
If possible, you may need to remove your child from situations where bullying might happen. For example, many bullies take advantage of spaces where there are few adults present, like the school bus. When you identify these, check to see if there’s an alternative where your child will feel safer.
9. Talk to school personnel.
If you think bullying isn’t being properly addressed, call your child’s teacher or speak with the school counselor. It might be that they have no idea your child is being bullied.
10. Talk to the bully’s parents.
If the situation is out of control, it might be time to have a heart-to-heart with the bully’s parents. While it may be difficult to control your emotions, keep your cool and appeal to the parent without putting them on the defense. Try putting the parent in your shoes, so they can better understand how their child’s actions are affecting your family.
11. Seek professional help.
The effects of bullying can stick with a person long after the bullying has stopped. If you notice that your child is sad, fearful of school, or has lost interest in daily activities, they might be battling depression. Professional counseling or therapy might be good avenues for your child to discuss their feelings and fears in a private, positive space.