Most parents can understand the fear surrounding sending their child to school for the first time. Until that point, you had complete control over everything your child went through, from the moment they woke up until the moment they went to sleep. However, sending your child to school forces you to separate from them and trust others with their well-being. For many parents, this worry begins to ease after a few days, allowing their children the independence they require to thrive. However, for parents of children with food allergies, this fear may never go away. With so many possible triggers and reactions, trusting your child in somebody else’s care can be close to impossible.
Meet with the School
While you may have the urge to shadow your child for every moment of their life, the truth of the matter is you probably don’t have the ability to do that. However, trusting your child to know what they can and cannot eat can also feel impossible – especially when they’re young. Given this, it is always a good idea to be in contact with your child’s school. Explain your child’s allergy to the school and work alongside them to ensure your child’s safety in their classroom. Not only will this assure you that everyone around your child is aware of their situation, but it will also provide you with the comfort that you are doing everything in your power to ensure your child’s safety.
Children, especially while in the younger grades, are always having some celebration. Whether it be a birthday party, a holiday celebration, or a school field trip, there is always something going on. For parents of children with food allergies, these occasions can feel like a minefield – every snack waiting to trigger a terrifying allergic reaction. Given this, it’s important to always have some allergy-safe snacks on hand for your child to munch on. Instead of expecting them to sit out of the celebration, or use their judgment and avoid the junk, send them along with pre-packed, proven safe treats of their own.
Educate Your Child
Despite not wanting to overwhelm your child, they must have a clear understanding of their situation. While you may struggle to trust them and their decision-making at a young age, that doesn’t mean that they can’t play a centric role in their own care. At the end of the day, classrooms are filled with children, and teachers may not be able to keep a constant watch on your child. By providing your child with knowledge of their allergy and teaching them how to avoid accidentally ingesting it, you may help them avoid an allergic reaction.
Have a Plan
Coming to your child’s school with news of an allergy can be overwhelming – for the parent, child, and teacher. That is why it is recommended to approach this issue with a plan. Instead of showing up with a list of concerns, show up with a list of actions you would like to take. You can speak to your allergist about which accommodations would be needed to ensure your child’s safety and work with the school to see these accommodations through. Be it a separate, sterile eating area in the lunchroom or requesting their classmates avoid eating peanuts, no request is too big when it comes to a child’s safety.
Know Your Rights
All over the world, actions are being taken and laws being put in place to ensure people's safety with food allergies. In many places, these laws translate to the classroom. For some, it means having a full-time shadow watching over everything they eat, and for others, it means moving to a classroom without a pet. No matter your rights, it is important that you know them before sending your child to school. For many, the fear of sending a child to a place where they can meet their allergen is a struggle enough, and having the ability to take advantage of these small changes can help them feel secure.
No matter how much you prepare, the fear of that first day will still be the same. However, it is still important to have a few tricks up your sleeves. Before starting school, make sure to contact your pediatrician and allergen. While nothing will ever take your fear completely away, knowing that you are equipped with enough knowledge to help your child can help. Make sure you give yourself enough time to do this smartly and not too rush through any one of the stages or appointments – after all, it is your child’s health at stake.
All parents know how terrifying sending their children to school can be. Trusting your child to be independent, to be smart, and make the right decisions. However, for parents of children with food allergies, all of these fears get amplified. For some children, just breathing the same air as a peanut, or touching the same table as an egg, can result in anaphylaxis. Whether you are the parents of a child with a food allergy or just another parent in the classroom, always make sure to be careful – the school should always be a safe place for a child.