Tip #1 Communication is Key
Every child's allergies manifest differently and no two children will exhibit identical symptoms when exposed to an allergen; therefore, it is essential that you communicate early and often with your child's teacher and school administration about his/her particular situation. It is important to ask questions in order to learn about:
- the structure of your child's day (including various rooms they will be in),
- policies in place regarding food, food safety, and community celebrations,
- procedure for field trips, including scheduling, storage & dissemination of food, transportation, and staffing (e.g. will a nurse be present), and
- how staff are EpiPen trained (if training is done online what kind of follow up is done to provide trainers and practice for faculty directly in contact with your child?).
Tip #2 Begin Planning Snack + Lunch Menus
Life gets incredibly hectic during the school year which makes having a snack list and lunch list accessible important. Not only do these lists make it easier to pack during the morning rush, but it is also extremely helpful for quick planning as you head to the grocery store.
Take a few minutes during the last few weeks of summer to create a snack cheat sheet and a lunch document with at least 8-10 different ideas. You'll be glad you did come a few weeks from now!
Tip #3 Review the School Calendar
Whether you use a Google Cal or prefer a planner using the weeks leading up to school to map out early dismissals, days off, and school holidays helps to alleviate stress that can pop up with last minute schedule changes. Likewise, having these dates marked down in advance allows for easier planning for special events (especially those involving food).
Tip #4 Plan Special Snack Choices
Managing life-threatening food allergies during the school year can be complicated by last minute or unexpected celebrations and events. Use the weeks leading up to school to create a list of 5-10 special snack choices and consider doing a little before school baking of safe muffins or cupcakes to store in the freezer.
Tip #5 Talk about Bullying with Your Child
Bullying is defined by StopBullying.gov as "unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involved real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be related, over time." Children with food allergies are often targeted and bullying using food allergens can result in potential life-threatening allergic reactions.
Bullying is all too common amongst children and the consequences are quite severe for all involved. Children should know who they can inform about any bullying, how they will stay safe physically, and ways to safely advocate for themselves. Start a positive dialogue with your child before the school year by reading stories about friendship, discussing positive ways to interact with others at school, and developing strategies for navigating the lunchroom.