We need help. What my daughter suffers from isn’t constant bullying but rather intermittent nastiness about her allergies. When we had taunting at primary school…food being waved in my daughters face with lots of ‘oh this is so delicious and you can’t have it’ sort of comments, we dealt with it by making sure she had an amazing dessert in her packed lunch to dive into happily. The taunting ended because her dessert looked as good as, or frankly better, than the school lunches. Score one for the home team.
Now she’s moved to secondary this sort of behaviour has gotten a bit more sophisticated. Kids are discussing dairy and egg laden food and telling Molly how great they are, and that her alternatives aren’t anything like as good as the real deal. If she tries to join in the debate about the best ice cream flavour, the answer is ‘how would you know, your ice cream isn’t real’. Rather shuts her out of the conversation nicely and ensures she can’t chat happily with the other kids.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology has a good letter to the Editor on the subject.
The figures stated show how much an issue it is. 25% of children are teased, bullied or harassed because of food allergy, the number raises to 50% from grades 6-10. Allergy UK site a similar figure of 25%, without the further breakdown by year group. The American figures suggest that the teenage years are the worse for this type of behaviour. Of course part of the answer is to work with the schools, but we want to help equip her to deal with the comments effectively at the time. Which leaves one question – how to we help our daughter, ourselves?
Apparently bullies like the emotional impact of their words, so somehow our kids need to respond in a way that takes the fun out of the teasing. Reading various websites the talk is all about being assertive and telling the other child that you don’t care what they say in a calm way. This is, I think, a big ask for an 11 year old. Especially when they do care. Pretending indifference isn’t easy. Most of the advice is the usual – avoid contact, walk with a friend, tell an adult or the hardest of all – ‘find the humour’. As if it’s easy for anyone to turn this sort of behavour into a joke!
Bullying UK has a helpful idea. They suggest role playing and practicing the ‘I don’t care’ body language and look. We will definitely start doing that. Here’s the link if you’re interested:
In the meantime, I’m looking for a quick comeback on the allergy side. An effective ‘I really don’t care’ sort of answer. But I’m stumped. Any and all suggestions welcome!
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Allergy UK is a great charity providing information and help for people with allergies.
Their hotline is staffed by wonderful people offering their help free of charge.
Their number is: 01322 619 898
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