No child deserves to be bullied. Ever. However, you may be surprised to read this, but at the core- bullying is the same in every situation. The bully has a need to exercise power over the victim. The victim being bullied cannot easily defend themselves resulting in them feeling powerless, isolated and unsafe. There is an unequal balance of power and the bullying continues so this unfair balance of power continues.
“Studies have shown that there was no differentiation between both the food the victims were allergic to and the severity of the allergy.”
Food allergy bullying is more concerning than other forms of bullying as there are also psychological implications due to the potential life-threating nature of food allergies. Victims of food allergy bullying have more to worry about than their hurt feelings (an issue which cannot be underrated) they have responsibly of their own health and taking care of themselves medically as well as the fear of dying.
“1/3 of food-allergic kids are bullied because of their allergy. With grades 6-10 it was as high as 50%”
“Awareness, awareness, awareness; It all comes down to awareness.” Says Bracha ZanbarZanbar, Food Allergy Specialist.
When children don’t understand the life-threating nature and consequences of a food allergies they can get resentful or jealous due to perceived special treatment that they feel the child with food allergies is getting, or of what they feel is unfair effects on them or other classmates- (like not being allowed to have a pizza party due to a classmates dairy allergy.) This makes the chances of a child with food allergies being bullied significantly higher and while food allergy awareness has increased in the past few years, it still isn’t understood or accommodated for enough. Including allergy education as part of the school curriculum can also be an important step towards general awareness and unnecessary feelings of power imbalance on behalf of the bully.
All parents want to do is protect their children. Unfortunately, as our children grow older we slowly reason just how little control we can have over the things that happen around and to our child. Parents of children with food allergies already have their protective nature in overdrive.
When it comes to bullying the most important step is to open communication about the situation between the child and the parent with research showing that when parents were aware of their child being bullied they coped better and suffered less.
Look to notice if your child displays any of these symptoms:
Dr Linda Herbert, a psychologist at Children’s National Health System in D.C says that parents should open the lines of communication before any signs of trouble are shown. Ask your child open-ended questions about their day in school, their experiences and feelings. Instead of asking, “Did you have a good day in school?” ask “How was your day in school?” If they answer ‘good’- ask a follow-up question of, “why- what happened to you today to make it a good day?” This way it would be easier to see the warning signs and notice a change in your child’s behaviour.
Professionals make several suggestions to parents after they have been notified when bullying is taking place.
Scott Sicherer of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai says, “From day one tell your child- you’re not about the foods you can’t eat. Tell your child there are many children who can’t eat certain foods for a whole host of reasons, like diabetics, children with celiac disease or vegetarians-so having a specialised diet doesn’t define you. Remind your child about their strengths and explore them with your child so they can feel better about themselves. If your child grows up normalising their situation- then other children should follow in their lead- allowing their food allergies to be just a part of their lives, not a defining element. There is no reason your child should ever feel isolated or different from others- and with a bit of creativeness, this is not only possible but easily achievable.
During our recent visit to Israel, we really struggled to find food for our son who has anaphylactic level allergies to egg and sesame. We approached both restaurants and hotels and were told they were unable or unwilling to take responsibility for preparing his food.
After learning about Dr. Eliana on-line, we contacted her in the hopes that she could provide a ‘normal’ restaurant experience for our family.
Both she and Shani were meticulous in their preparations with the restaurants to ensure that our son had a wonderful and safe experience.
We truly appreciate their efforts to take care of our son, and to provide us with a lovely vacation experience.
T.M., Chicago, USA
We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the amazing gift you have given us over this Pesach- the gift of having you with us!!!!
We have NEVER felt more comfortable, calm, and at ease than we did these past 10 days. Your warmth, professionalism, kindness, and care shown through in all that you did.
My children are so grateful that they were able to be with you this Pesach. You made sure that they were so well looked after and they felt so at ease and comfortable with you! You were so amazing and approachable to them! And they LOVED all the food you so amazingly prepared (supervised allergy-free food preparation, managed menus) for them!
It’s very difficult for us to trust people when it comes to our kids and allergies. You magically were able to take away ALL of our anxieties, and nervousness (and we don’t give that away so easily!!)
We can never fully thank you enough. We truly feel that you instantly became part of our family and we look forward to G-d willing being able to be with you and plan amazing trips with you many many many more times!!!!
Thank you and may Hashem bless you for the work you do. My son Jacob said your allergy card has been very helpful. I am so grateful- beyond words.
L.R., NY, NY
Thank you for delivering our allergy free baked goods to our hotel. We just tasted the focaccia and it was delicious!
All the best,
S.C., New Jersey
We can't thank you enough for assembling this top-notch team of specialists to work with our daughter while she is in Israel.
T.G., Philadelphia, PA
"Food Allergy Concierge assisted us with a very helpful, detailed customized allergy card in Hebrew. The Allergy card was extremely helpful for multiple allergies and allowed us to eat safely in several eateries and hotels. Highly recommended.”
G.A. Illinois USA