My son had multiple food allergies throughout elementary school and still does now that he is starting middle school. If you have a child in elementary, you know that much of school still revolves around food. There are birthday parties, holiday parties, food-based science projects, food-based class activities, and the list goes on.
For a child with food allergies, it can be even harder to participate in these food-related activities…and it’s not just because of the food allergy consequences. Unfortunately, so many other things can come with this. Some children feel panicked and shameful if too much fuss is made of their food allergies which could bring unwanted attention from other classmates. Some children may feel just the opposite, frustrated and angry that no one ever considers their special needs. So, how, as parents, do we mediate?
Here are a few suggestions that have helped us throughout the years:
1. Be sensitive for your child’s needs. No one asks for food allergies. No one really likes having food allergies. Some children do not like the unwanted attention of being “the child with food allergies.” Others are not bothered at all by this extra attention. So, when planning for this school year…sit down as a family and discuss how you would like to handle food allergies in the classroom and then plan accordingly.
2. Create an allergy-friendly snack box for school. Buy a large tupperware container and fill it full of allergy-friendly, shelf life-friendly snacks for your child. Be sure to include a wide variety of your child’s favorite snacks so it doesn’t become repetitive. This way, anytime a classmate celebrates a birthday or a special snack is provided to the class that could contain an allergen, your child’s teacher will be able to provide the child with an allergy-appropriate snack. Be sure to refill the snack container again in January when returning from winter break.
3. Make the teacher your ally. Talk with your child’s teacher at the beginning of the year. Sign up to help prepare special food-based projects or activities. This will allow you to purchase allergy-friendly versions of the food for the class. (For example: My son’s class made gingerbread houses for the holidays, so the teacher let me know and I brought all the necessary goodies for my son’s table. They were able to use normal candies that I knew were allergy-free and I was able to do the same for the icing.)
4. Volunteer to be homeroom mother. Yes, this position does take time and effort, but it will be well-worth it in the long run. Being homeroom mother allows you control over the food that is bought for class parties. Even if the teacher requires certain types of food such as graham crackers and chocolate, you can buy allergy-friendly versions of this food.
Now it’s your turn. What great ideas have worked for your child and food in the classroom?