Back to School: The Parent/School Relationship

August 23, 2011 at 11:13 am Leave a comment

Sending your food-allergic child to school can be a bit scary. We wonder if our child will be able to handle the whole food issue when we aren’t there to protect them and read labels. We pray that the teachers will be as concerned as we are and realize this is a serious issue in an emotional way just as much as it is physical. Tons of questions and ‘what-if’s’ flood our minds and sometimes finding the right balance between concern and worry can be tricky. But one place that balance is absolutely necessary is in the parent/school relationship. I thought I’d write a few things I’ve learned by doing and maybe they will help some of you to cultivate a healthy relationship and open communication between you and your child’s school.

  1. Be proactive. Before your child starts school, find out their policy on food allergies, epipens and benadryl. Talk to the nurse. And as soon as you know who your child’s teacher is, get to know her. Make an info sheet about your child’s allergies explaining what she’s allergic to, what a reaction looks like, what to do if a reaction occurs {or if your child is exposed to an allergen}. Put emergency numbers on the sheet, as well as, a picture of your child’s face. That way any substitute teacher or helper will know exactly who your child is. A good print out for this type of form can be found here. You’ll also find other helpful forms there related to food allergies and school.
  2. Be the Room Mom. At our school, every class has a designated Room Mom. The duties include overseeing parties and special events in the class {which always involve food} and doing other things to help the teacher out. I signed up to be my daughter’s Room Mom this year so that I can be directly involved in that. I have time to help out and I want to be there as much as possible when there’s food planning. When I’m planning the food, I can control what foods are offered to an extent. It’s a perfect scenario.
  3. Pick your Battles. There will most likely be issues that arise that are out of your control. Unfortunately, we cannot protect our kids from feeling left out when the whole class is enjoying a yummy-looking snack that we weren’t aware of. The teacher may not remember to give you a head’s up when something involving food is coming up. Some things we just can’t help and we have to let our kids learn to adjust and grow through these issues without us. They will be stronger for it in the long run. But there will be issues that must be addressed. So, when that happens, go in with the right spirit and non-accusatory attitude. Remember: Kindness matters. We are totally invested in our children and it’s easy to get offended or offend when an issue with our child arises. Just keep your cool and try to look at it from every vantage point. The right attitude is key here to keeping a good relationship with your school and teachers.
  4. Offer solutions. If there is a craft or art project {or anything} involving an allergen {i.e. milk cartons, hand soap with milk in it, etc.} be ready to offer a solution such as, ‘Can we use empty water jugs instead of milk cartons? or Can I provide the handsoap for the class? or Can I come in and check out the supply of hand soap brought in to be sure it’s safe for my child? Don’t just tell the teacher there’s a problem. Have a solution. Afterall, we are the ones with a heightened sense of awareness about allergens, not them. As much as they care for our children, they are still able to overlook things that we would immediately notice.
  5. Say Thank You. When things go right, when the teacher takes special measures to keep your child safe, say thank you. When a staff member, teacher or helper goes out of their way to make your child feel special, say Thank You! Recognize their efforts. Send flowers or a card. Do anything to let them know you really appreciate what they are doing for your child {and for your peace of mind} because they are really having to make an effort to remember. What’s second nature to me, is often a difficult and stressful thing for the teacher who is not constantly reading labels and scanning the environment for unsafe allergens. A small thank you goes a long way.

I hope these are helpful tips. I would love to hear some of your tips. If you have some, leave a comment for the rest of us!

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Entry filed under: Allergies @ School, The Journey. Tags: , , , .

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