Today it hit me – my little boy will be starting school in the fall. In only three months he’ll be a preschooler, riding the bus and everything. He’s totally ready. I’m not.
I’m sure ALL parents are nervous about their kid’s starting school. Some of the things they worry about are:
- Will they like school?
- Will they be safe?
- Will they get along with all the other kids?
I’m certainly worried about those things, but add to that the worries about food allergies. Thankfully my son has never had an anaphylactic reaction, and I doubt he’d ever react that way, but he must be prepared for one either way. So, my additional worries concerning food allergies and school are:
- Will he eat something he’s not supposed to?
- If he does react to something will he get the correct treatment? Cream, antihistamines, Epi-Pen?
- Will the other kids accept his allergies or will they bully him?
On top of all that, I’m worried about his eczema at school.
- Will he get an uncontrollable itch attack?
- Will the kids accept or make fun of his skin?
- Will the school actually make his skin worse? (Considering dust, stress, etc. all big triggers)
And finally, how will my son’s weaker immune system adapt to school…
- When he catches the frequent common colds (for other kids) will it turn into an asthma crisis (for my son)?
- How often will this happen? Will he miss a lot of school?
- Will the germs and dust cause him to develop chronic asthma?
I could go on, but you get my point. I know other parents have the same concerns and it’s wonderful to know I’m not alone and not crazy and over dramatic, which is how I often feel. Although I don’t know a lot about dealing with school AND allergies/eczema/asthma, I do know preparation and planning is key. It’s crucial to meet with school nurses and teachers before school begins to make sure everyone is aware of the medical needs of your child. Creating a well documented action plan in case of emergencies is essential. All medication must be approved in writing by the child’s physician. That is what I know. I can do all those things, no issues there.
But, how do I deal with my emotions? I’m great at planning, but that’s not the issue. As a mom dealing with the atopic triad: allergies, eczema, and asthma, I’m constantly anxious about day to day exposures to triggers and irritants when I’m with son, how will I cope when he’s flown out from under my protective wing? Ultimately, I suppose I’m not that different from all parents in this regard. Every parent’s first day of school jitters comes down to the same thing – their child leaving their nest of protection, comfort, security, and love.
So, how do most parents survive their child’s first few days of school? Emotionally, they probably don’t. I’m sure I’ll be a nervous wreck for weeks, but as parents we can only prepare our children so much before we set them free to discover themselves and to create their own identity. We have to place faith in our parenting up to that point and trust that our children will be smart enough to take care of themselves AND, when it comes specifically to allergies, eczema, and asthma, we must also do everything in our power to educate the teachers, nurses, etc. so we feel confident they will be able to take care of our children in our place. When school starts, our children really begin their own lives. We have to let them thrive and in order for them to do that, we have to put our own emotions and anxieties on the back burner.
Below are some great resources you may want to check out before your child starts school. I’ll definitely be using some of this information when I meet with Tristan’s teachers and school nurse this summer.
Food Allergies and School:
School Guidelines for Managing Students with Food Allergies – Info from FAAN
Protecting Your Child from Food Allergies at Preschool – How to select a school.
Taking Your Child’s Food Allergies Back to School – Planning with the school.
Emotional Aspects of Food Allergies at School – Two moms with kids in school discuss their concerns and review what they’ve learned so far.
Eczema and School:
National Eczema Association (USA) – Tools for school – Educators and Parents versions. Great info here!
Asthma and School:
Asthma at School – Guides for Parents, Teachers, and Health Professionals
Many of you have already been through this, having mastered the school-age parent role. How did you do it? What are your secrets? I’d love your input. Do you have any tips on how to deal with the emotional side of sending a child off to school? Or any tips on how you prepared your child for school? What kind of planning did you do with the teachers or nurses?
Check back next week as Kristin Beltaos, a food allergy coach and consultant, gives us some tips on getting ready for school with food allergies.