Most parents who place their children in Early Years care will experience a wide range of emotions. It’s frightening trusting someone else with your baby when you have been their primary care giver since they were born.
Eating at school with food allergy
Behind the scenes, your child’s allergy management plan should have been shared with all members of the lunch staff and your child may be given a lanyard to help lunch staff identify children with special dietary requirements. So, with this safely net in place, this is a great time for your child to practise living independently with their food allergy.
If your child has a cooked school lunch,
- All schools should be providing lunch menus with allergen information included. This is the ideal place for your child to practise reading menus and understanding what they can and can’t eat.
- At home, sit with them and help them choose their meals for the week from the school menu.
If your child eats packed lunch,
- Explain to them why they should never share food with their friends.
- Make sure they understand that it’s sometimes difficult to know exactly what ingredients are in some items, especially homemade and ‘may contain’ items, so it’s always better to be safe and say ‘no’ when someone offers you their food.
- It might be a good scenario to role play at home to make sure they’re confident enough to say no.
Some schools also offer milk and a mid-morning snack in the classroom. If your child is food allergic and cross-contamination of these foods could cause a reaction, mention this at your meeting with the school before term begins.
Medication at school
If your child has eczema, asthma, allergic rhinitis, or is at risk of anaphylaxis, they will need medication at school to manage their symptoms. This should be covered in their individual healthcare plan. To help them start to take responsibility of their medication, you could:
- Make sure your child knows where their medication is stored at school.
- Discuss with your child what this section of their heathcare plan says.
- You could suggest that they speak to the school nurse and their teacher about where their medication is stored and what would happen if they need it.
Dealing with bullying
If you suspect your child is being bullied about their allergies, or anything else, tell their teacher immediately so they can monitor and act on the situation. To help empower your child and avoid bullying, you could:
- Reassure your child that having an allergy is okay and nothing to be embarrassed about.
- Encourage them to confidently tell new friends about their allergies as soon as they begin primary school.
- Encourage them to speak to you about how they’re feeling.
- You could ask their teacher to cover allergies as a topic in class one day with an interactive activity.
The charity Bullying UK (part of Family Lives) provides some informative resources for tacking bullying at school: Bullying at school | Bullying UK | Family Lives
Dealing with peer pressure is something your child will probably experience for the first time as they navigate primary school. Providing them with the confidence and knowledge to make the right choice can help prevent them from giving into peer pressure. Research has also shown that by having supportive friends, children are less likely to take part in food allergy related risky behaviour.
- From a young age, encourage your child to speak confidently about their allergy to their friends and family.
- You may want to explain what peer pressure is, when they reach the appropriate age, so they can be prepared and ready to make the right choices.
Social media platforms, such as TikTok take peer pressure to the next level, with children and young adults sharing videos of themselves taking very dangerous risks – including with allergy. These social media platforms have a minimum age which is usually within the ages of secondary school. However many children will be given access to social media platforms in primary school, so it’s important to be aware. If your child is of the appropriate age to join social media, and you are comfortable with them doing so, we recommend that you browse these sites yourself first, so you know first-hand what your child will be exposed to. Have a grownup conversation with them, tell them about these videos and make sure they understand the very high risks people are taking – and the consequences. You can also use parental controls to monitor and restrict what they see on these platforms.