With kids back in school, we cannot reiterate enough how crucial and how imperative it is that food allergy bullying is STOPPED, and children know how to handle it in an effective manner.
Last week, we shared a story about bullying that hit close to home. This blog is a follow-up on that. While excerpts are shared in this post, the full story can be accessed here.
The target in our story: my sister (when she was in second grade), struggling to keep the enemy in peanuts away from her, as the bully brought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich towards her mouth. There came a point where she felt she couldn’t defend herself anymore, at least without the help of her school staff.
She mustered courage, got up and walked straight to the School Counselor’s office, just outside the cafeteria. She recalls shaking like a leaf, nervous and frightened, not just about thwarting a severe allergic reaction, but also losing popularity with the other friends, for being that “weird kid” who goes to the counselor.
GOING TO THE COUNSELOR IS NOT “WEIRD”
I am glad my sister’s school counselor sorted things out.
She rolled out the Restorative Justice Program. It’s purpose was to give the bully:
a deeper understanding of the impact of her behavior
an opportunity to take responsibility for the harm she caused
an understanding to harness empathy
to chance to work on a way to restore the damaged relationship.
After a verbal and written apology from the girl and a note to her family the incident was history as far as my sister was concerned.
Impact of bullying incidents in a child with food allergies are :
Distress and anxiety…While certainly real, these feelings are counterproductive. They impede problem solving.
Embarrassment and feelings of victimization…These feelings reinforce social isolation.
Resentment of the restrictions…In children while understandable, this can be toxic and it needs to be addressed.
Impede self-reliance…This is critical in developing a safe social environment in children with food allergies.
Therefore, in my mind a better approach would be for us to:
Design and implement a school-based Food Allergy Awareness Program, perhaps run by the PTA.
It is imperative that we use the support of the school counselor, cafeteria staff, and teachers.
At the Middle/High School level, an Allergy Advocate Club would also be a great idea.
Be proactive…be the change you wish to see in the world.