Friends Help Friends Stop Food Allergy Bullying

The other day I received a call from a concerned parent. Her child was not dealing well with having celiac disease at the Holidays and she called me for some venting. We discussed how the mental aspect of having a disease comes back to haunt no matter how positive we try to keep it. And then there is, of course, being the parent and dealing with loving a child and knowing they occasionally feel "left out" or "different" some times, especially at Holidays.

These moments of sadness are unavoidable and are a natural part of loss in all of our lives. We lose a friend when we thought we had one. Someone jabs out at us to hurt us just where we are weakest. We have a moment succumbing to the one thing we know is bad for us and then pay the price physically. Or, we just feel sad because we can't sink our teeth into something that we really envy others having the ability to have so easily. These are ALL normal human responses to loss.

Holidays associated with food aside, statistically, our children will run into bullying over their food sensitivity or intolerance from their peers at school or friends. Three days ago CNN ran a story from TIME, Bullying Over Food Allergiesand at least half of all children with food allergies will experience bullying of some sort. A shocking, but not an unexpected, portrayal of what they face daily. Being picked on or ridiculed in any amount strongly affects our children who have food limitations.

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As a self-confessed "Mama Bear", my first response is to want to fight my child's battle for her. I could justify and say most parents across the world feel that way about their young, but that is obvious. It is even harder for parents in the tween and teen years to balance the knowledge of when to let them fight their own battles, or when to step into the picture. As the parent of a budding teen girl I realize, more now than ever, how much she needs to feel a part of something to gain identity of her own. And I know how much she needs to take her own disappointments and learn how to face the world...but, but...see what I mean?

Tragedies have resulted from of our worst nightmares fueled on by many hundreds of examples to be offered on bullying and suicide."Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University."

The complexities of growing up with celiac disease require us, as parents, to become an ally and a protector for way longer than we thought necessary. By no means am I considering that perhaps another awful tragedy like suicide will be the outcome of bullying against any child, but these statistics are emblazoned on our minds and deep fears.

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Of course we don't want to expound upon our fears as parents, but we want to know if things in our child's world are not as peachy as they seem. So, one way to always deal with this is to listen and be your child's sounding board. We don't want to absolutely discount any claims of it made by our child. If she makes a claim, I am skeptical, but probe further. One incident had me calling the principal because it had escalated beyond a three time occurrence, but we allowed her the opportunity to try and sort it out by herself first.

Support groups are places that allow our children moments to breathe in all that good peaceful feeling of letting their guard down without fear of being less. They allow a place of refuge to feel feelings of being the norm and all that normal is made of. One way we bridged the gap for our daughter, was to bring my daughter's friends with us to R.O.C.K. meetings. That way they identified with other kids and also had a blast learning about food allergies.

Be My Gluten Free Valentine Party is from 3 pm-5pm on February 10th, 2013.
For our next meeting, we will be addressing these issues by asking that each GFKR (Gluten Free Kids ROCK) member invite a friend and/or teacher to come learn about ways to address bullying in relation to their food allergies. Membership is always free and all it takes is an email request.

Please check Where We Meet link for more details.

We will also be accepting email entries up until February 1, 2013 from any member or child under 18 years of age on problem solving and giving us ways in which he/she deals with bullying and food allergies. We will post some on the GFKR web site in a series with the best answers given.
Please email them to irresistiblyglutenfree@gmail.com. 

Help us make a difference, one child at a time...

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*Information on our site and shared by members of our support forums is not intended to be medical advice or to replace the relationship between a patient and his/her physician*