Use a tone they can hear. Be mindful of your tone when meeting with parents, teachers or school administrators. Some allergy parents feel anxious and uncomfortable in such meetings; others feel fired up and want to go in with guns blazing. Do your best to have an even tone and expect the best from others.
Show them we’re on the same page. Sometimes teachers or administrators resist learning to administer an epinephrine auto-injector, or they don’t see the need to restrict certain foods from the classroom. What can help is sharing the fact that there are teachers whose lives are changed when a child dies in their classroom. Let parents, teachers and administrators see that our lives are not the only ones that will be affected if a careless mistake costs a life.
Ask for what you need – but not more. It can be terrifying to send an allergic child to school. However, as parents, our goal is to ensure a reasonably safe environment – not to eliminate all risk. Think of this way: When you teach your child to ride a bike, you give him a helmet and training wheels. Gradually, you lift up the training wheels until you remove them altogether. There may be a few skinned knees – just like there may be a few hives at school. But the price of trying to remove all risk is too high for any child. All kids deserve a full and vibrant life.
We are all ambassadors, hoping to enlighten and educate others about our cause: living with food allergies. There will be hiccups along the way, but if we stoop to name-calling, exaggerating or taking an adversarial stance, then we’re not much better than those picketing parents.
Let’s model healthy problem solving for our children by showing them how to collaborate and communicate. Remember, they’re watching us every step of the way.
Gina Clowes is a certified life coach specializing in the needs of parents of children with food allergies. She is the founder and director of AllergyMoms.com, an online support group serving thousands worldwide.
First published in Allergic Living magazine.
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