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If you are lucky enough to bypass childhood allergies with your own child it can be quite hard to understand if you are not living it. Although chances are, someone you know either in your child’s class or a friend/family member is affected by food allergies. Even if your child may not have allergies, it is more than likely that you have to be aware of what you are sending to school for snacks and lunches.
Times have changed and we are seeing an extreme influx of children with allergies. Although you may not have any experience from your own days in school with food allergies, your child does. Teaching your child how to accept the differences can go a long way in not only helping them understand that everyone is different but that being understanding and empathetic can help others feel more accepted.
If you’ve never had the experience of food allergies though, how can you to teach your child how to be inclusive? As mother’s that have children with food allergies, we’ve put together a short list of helpful tips.
The easiest way to help your child understand allergies is to have a conversation about them. Ask them if they know anyone with allergies and what they see day to day in the class. Having a chat about the allergic child’s feelings as well as their own feelings when reactions happen can help them develop empathy towards others. If you are unsure how to help your child understand allergies, there are many resources online to help explain the way the body works.
All children want to be included. Plain and simple. Whether they are dealing with allergies, or not, they want to be included. Don’t be afraid to include a child with allergies in parties and playdates. They may not always be able to attend but just getting the invite can make a huge difference in that child’s day. Some things just aren’t easy for a child who is dealing with allergies but the invite can do more than you can even imagine for a child who is frequently left out.
It may not seem like much but offering to make or purchase a special food or snack - even if it’s just a watermelon means the world to a parent dealing with food allergies. More often than not, they will say no thank you and pack their own food but please don’t stop offering. It’s an incredible feeling to know that you cared enough to offer. Considering children make their life long friends in early elementary school, your child’s friend may be a significant part of your life for years to come.
Talk to your children about food. How different cultures have different foods, how some people can eat some foods and not others. Even how they themselves may like certain foods and really dislike others. Having these conversations will help your child accept when another child brings in food that may be different but may also be the only food they can eat. Chat about the different types of bullying and how teasing and making fun of a child who is eating a different food is considered bullying.
In some schools they have allergy tables. If your child’s friend has to sit alone at this table, consider chatting with the parents about making a safe lunch, even if it’s only once a week, so that the two can sit together. This will mean more than you will ever know to the child who is sitting to eat lunch by themselves.
Helpful Tip - Making the teacher aware if you are bringing in snacks or special treats a few days in advance can ensure that the child with allergies is not left out. That way, their parents can accommodate and make them a similar snack.
It isn’t always easy to understand what other’s are going through however, most parents are willing to share and educate others about their experiences if you ask questions. If your child is struggling to understand and would like to be inclusive, seeking guidance from the teacher or parents themselves would be a great first step!