Throwing Peanuts: Conflict Resolution at School

Having a child with food allergies guarantees one thing:  CONFLICT.  For the safety of your child, you are asking others to change their eating habits in some situations.  Before your child eats food his teacher has made, you are asking probing questions about her food prep methods.  Of course there will be conflict!

The hardest situations I have had to handle seem to come out of nowhere.  For example, my dear daughter came home from school one day saying her class was throwing peanuts at kids on the school playground.  What?  Yes, and her allergic brother was on the playground at the same time with his class at recess.

My first thought was to call the principal and start yelling.  But thankfully dear daughter is very good at details.  So my questions for her were:

  • Were they targeting her brother?
  • Was brother hit by any peanuts?
  • How many classes were involved?
  • Why were they throwing peanuts?

It turned out that some preteen boys and girls were flirting with each other in dear daughter’s class.  They were not targeting our son and he was not hit by any flying peanuts.  Only her class was involved.

I emailed my concern over this behavior to her teacher only.  She was surprised by the kids’ behavior and understood my concerns.  The next day the teacher had a serious talk with my daughter’s class.  According to my daughter, her teacher covered these points:

  • Food is not allowed on the playground.
  • It is disrespectful to throw food at someone.
  • Kids with food allergies are put at risk when food is thrown.

That was the end of the whole situation.  Here are the things that did not happen:

  • No new rules were needed.
  • The principal was not involved.
  • Kids throwing peanuts were corrected by their teacher without being embarrassed.
  • Other parents did not have to be notified.
  • Dear son’s name was not mentioned.
  • My relationship with my daughter’s teacher not damaged.
  • No social media platforms were used in the situation.

I know I was lucky in this incident.  If my daughter’s teacher had not understood my email, I would have needed to follow up with the principal.  If the principal was not supportive, then I would have needed the school nurse, or the cluster superintendent, or an outside advocate like FAAN to step in.  If the kids had been bullying my son, then completely different measures would have been called for.

What would you have done?  Comments welcome.


What do you say?

We’ve all been in those uncomfortable situations.  Other parents are questioning why they need to change their habits for the safety of your food allergic kid.  Or maybe they are complaining about accommodations made by airlines, or schools, or churches that curtail their freedom to eat peanuts where they want, when they want.  And you are there, listening uncomfortably, to their complaints about how they have been inconvenienced by food allergies.

Magical Phrases

It is tempting to be silent, but please don’t!  Here are some phrases that are almost magical in changing the tone of the whine-fest.  Please only use when completely true!

“Before dear son was diagnosed with food allergies, I felt that way too.”

“Before he reacted at the baseball game, I wondered the same thing.” (true for us)

“Before that trip to the emergency room, I thought…” ( thankfully haven’t been there )

“Before his eye swelled up from contact with ____”

“We are proud of dear son.  He is used to going without and not complaining.  He can have something special to eat when he gets home.”

“Our allergist Dr. Wood told us to…”

“The allergist told us not to…”

“We know he has not outgrown it because …”

“We have thought about going to ___ restaurant, but we were not comfortable after we talked to the manager.”

“I was frightened when I thought about what could have happened…”

“We looked into ___, but our family has decided it was too risky for dear son.”

“I was so scared when I realized I hadn’t been careful enough…”

“After that near-miss, we started to ___.”

[Explaining why dear son can’t eat their home-made brownies.]  “I can cook for peanut allergic kids.  But even now I am not able to cook for kids with milk/egg/wheat allergies.  We just have too much of those in our kitchen; the kids and I are not that careful.”

Tone of Voice

You are not a paranoid, over-protective parent.  You are just stating what has happened in your family and the logical decisions you have made since.  Do you best not to get defensive!  These are all most effective when spoken in a very matter-of-fact tone of voice.  Good luck, food allergy parents!

Gone All Day

Getting on the bus

Yesterday would have been a regular day for many 3rd grade kids. Our guy went to school, then to a friend’s house for the afternoon and evening. He came home around bed time.

For our guy it was the longest he’d be out without a parent with him.  He bought lunch at school, had dinner at the friend’s place and went to a Boy Scout event in the evening.  Very normal!

We did the prep work:

  • He carries his Epipen in his backpack, so that went with him all day.
  • We’ve gone with him to school on pizza Friday and he knows the items he can have.
  • He had his own dessert with him for lunch.
  • The friend’s mom is super about food allergies and she and I talked about dinner ahead of time.

I’m so proud of how he handled the Boy Scout event!  Lots of snacks were involved and our guy didn’t see food he was comfortable with.  Plus some of the snacks were buffet style and included tree nuts.  He had fun but waited until he got home to eat his (large) bedtime snack.  Yesterday was an awesome day for him!

Easiest Birthday Ever

Our peanut allergic boy turned 9 earlier this month and it had to be the easiest birthday for me ever.

Our Giant supermarket now has cupcakes “made in a peanut free facility.” They aren’t the fancy ones with the sports rings, just fairly plain. So I expected dear son to request home-made cupcakes, just like I’d always made. Nope, he was happy with the store-bought because that is what all the kids take in for birthdays.

Son also preferred I not come in to hand out the cupcakes. So that morning after a 5 minute drive and drop off at the school office, I was done! Amazing.

Up to bat in the home run derby
Up to bat in the birthday home run derby

His party was easy also.  He and his buddies did sports for an hour at Frozen Ropes.  They all got along fine had super manners.  Then they had Gatorade and Papa John’s Pizza.  We did make the cake for this one!

I have to admit to mixed feelings about my son’s new independence.   But he is moving on and growing up and I shouldn’t be in the way.