Bullying is unacceptable behavior regardless of where it occurs, but children with food allergies have a personal perspective of what bullying feels like. As a parent of a food allergic child, don’t wait until your child experiences being bullied at school to teach them how to deal with it.
Among the 5.9 million children living with food allergies, 40% of them have suffered a life threatening reaction. About one-third of these children have experienced being bullied at school.
Bullying is defined as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children and involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.”
Your child must understand the risk of his/her food allergy in a way that’s relevant to their age and ability to comprehend the danger. Children are often bullied when they are perceived as different from their peers. Living with food allergies differentiates children from the ‘norm’ and immediately puts kids at risk for being bullied. The degree to which this is true is impacted by your community (school, religious institutions, sports, and other recreational groups), how they perceive food allergies and whether or not they understand the real physical reactions a person can have to the allergen(s).
There are reported cases where children have been taunted at school by other children using allergens, such as touching the allergic child with the known allergen, contaminating their food, or throwing the allergen at them. It can happen on the school bus or in the school cafeteria or even walking home after school. Let your children know that these behaviors are not acceptable, and must not be tolerated. Validate their feelings and experiences, and teach them to inform an adult immediately who can intervene.
Work Out a Safety Plan with Your Child
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