By Gastro MD
Gastrointestinal symptoms can disrupt your child’s life at home and at school. While you try your best to control their food and environment at home, it’s frustrating to know that school personnel may be unprepared when they become symptomatic or in distress at school.
Many adults your child will encounter at school can’t understand what your student’s symptoms feel like because they have not experienced them personally. As a result, the school staff may not take such children seriously or provide necessary accommodations, particularly when it comes to school-supplied lunches.
The Challenge with School-supplied Lunches and Snacks
While pediatric gastroenterologists recognize the potential harm to a child who doesn’t get proper nutrition during the day and advocate for these patients while at school, there remains a disconnect between health specialists and school menus. That’s why many school cafeterias still serve pizza, hot dogs, tater tots and other deep-fried snacks. While school cafeterias have evolved and try to provide healthy options, too, they still have a long way to go.
For your child with chronic gastrointestinal problems, many of the foods served at their cafeteria may contain ingredients that will trigger food intolerance symptoms and exacerbate their conditions. You can ask your school if they provide meal options for kids with chronic GI issues, but packing your child’s lunch may be the best way to prevent GI problems at school.
How Parents with Newly Diagnosed Kids Can Plan Ahead
Kids with chronic conditions are often experts at hiding their symptoms, which can lead to psychological distress and low self-esteem. Depending on how old your child is, you may need to speak with teachers directly to help them understand the symptoms of your child’s chronic GI condition, why they may have missed class on occasion and why they may not participate in school activities as much as their peers do.
If your child is older, they may insist on talking to their teachers themselves. Our advice is to let them. Kids who understand their chronic conditions and triggers often find creative solutions. Be sure to check in on them regularly, but let them navigate how much they share about their condition and with who.
Helping Kids Answer, “Why Can’t You Eat That?”
Declining certain foods and explaining why they can’t eat them to their peers or authority figures at school may embarrass your child and make them feel singled out. However, they shouldn’t be made to feel that their condition means they deserve to be bullied or judged. Teach your child to be confident yet polite when declining anything. A polite “no, thank you” should suffice, but you can both practice saying, “That looks delicious, but I can’t accept it because of a medical condition.”
Sometimes the best approach is to use the technical or medical terms for their condition, which is often enough for most kids to accept and respect.
For more on kids’ GI health, contact Gastro MD. We are cutting-edge clinical gastroenterology practice and set the standard in digestive health care.