Hi, my 2nd grader seems to have hit a rough spot in school. A few of the other kids are making fun of him. He says they make fun of the food that he eats. From what I can tell, it hasn’t progressed past words, but I’d like to get ahead of this. What I can do?
This is a great question and I’m really sorry your son is experiencing bulling, at such a young age. It’s fantastic that you want to get ahead of things because you’re right, it hasn’t progressed now but it could in the future.
First, you’re going to need to get the teacher(s) involved. That’s your first line of defense. You can also approach either the teacher, PTA, or school admins and request food allergy education for all students. At that age, a Kyle Dine concert would be fantastic. You can visit his website and have him come to your child’s school. He uses music to help spread awareness about food allergies.
Obviously all bullying is wrong. The school is going to have to tackle the overarching issue. However, we also have to acknowledge that food-based bullying can be life threatening and cannot be tolerated whatsoever.
I’m going to send you to this article. It’s about bullying in school. In this case, it was peanuts, and it got physical. Whilst you’re not there yet (and I hope you never are), the article will give you some great steps to take.
Hopefully you’re able to resolve this situation. In the meantime, keep talking positively about your son’s food. Tell him how awesome it is. If possible, pack lunches together, and you take the same lunch as him. If he sees you (someone he really looks up to) taking the same items, it will give him a confidence boost. Don’t forget to make cute food and where possible, add in some novelty items.
You know, when Kid Two was in school, he had something similar happen and it was one of the reasons I started the bakery. I was going to show everyone how awesome free-food could be. Now, you don’t need to start a bakery, but do everything that you can to reassure your son.
For some kids, this experience of being harassed can take them down a dangerous path of risky behaviour later in life, which can be deadly. I once read about a teen who wanted to fit in so he ate food he was allergic to whilst sitting next to his epi-pen (away from parents).
Another way to combat this is to ask your son what the other kids have that “looks cool” or what he’d like to try. Whatever the answer, see if you can make or purchase a safe version for him. It makes him able to say things like “I have one of those today too”.
The last thought I have for you is to arrange a free-from picnic for your son’s class. It’s common for kids to make fun of things that are different/foreign. Having the kids share a meal that’s safe for your son AND delicious (after an education session on allergies and bullying) can generate empathy and understanding.
I hope you’re able to get this under control, not just for your son, but for other kids with food allergies in his school.
Hope things get better!
~The Allergy Chef
Have a question? Send it to email@example.com