Well, as a parent of a kid with allergies entering the public school system next year, this new report from Dr. Scott Sicherer, professor of pediatrics at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine doesn’t fill me with warm, gooey thoughts.
According to the report, nearly 1/3 of kids with allergies have been harassed, teased or bullied about their condition. 80% of the time it is by their classmates. As a result of this, 65 per cent of kids with allergies report feelings of depression and embarrassment.
While this study does give me even more resolve to continue to educate my son about the realities of his allergies, it still fills me with worry. Overall I do think that things are getting better for parents with allergic kids, at least where I live. There is more acceptance by schools (even if there is tacit and often unconscious singling out of kids with allergies by teachers, as the study shows), and many have adopted peanut free policies. I am happy our schools are willing to take a stand on behalf of our kids.
But I still run across the occasional parent who resents – sometimes vociferously – the minor restriction on their kids eating choices. Every once in a while I run into someone who believes that our sons condition has somehow impinged on their personal freedoms, and that it is their God given democratic peanut loving right to send whatever friggin food they wish for their kid to eat. It seems so out of proportion in my mind. I know packing lunches and snacks for kids is a hassle, and that having to make choices based on the safety of a few kids seems restricting. But the alternative?
Suck it up, itchy boy. Yes, I have heard that. Just last week. Along with “helpful” advice to a Facebook friend that they shouldn’t worry about sending a peanut butter sandwich for their kids to school despite it being against school policy. They won’t get in trouble for it because all the lunch room monitors are Grade 5 kids and they don’t care what the little kids eat.
So, part of me has to wonder how many of those kids doing the teasing, excluding and outright bullying are getting fed a diet of resentment from their parents? How many parents openly talk in front of their kids about what a hassle or pain it is to pack a lunch or snack each day that has to accommodate little Billy’s allergy? How many still believe that, really, it’s just a couple of hives. Our kids listen. This stuff trickles down.
I know that isn’t the case with most parents. The vast majority of people are fully supportive and understand that the risks are more than just a few hives. But it just takes that one parent who decides, for whatever reason, that their kids need to eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch trumps my kids right to learn in a safe environment to wreck havoc in our life.