Thursday, December 27, 2012

Parents: Are Your Children Bullying Others About Food Allergies And Obesity? You May Want To Think Twice About A New Year's Resolution!

New Year's Resolutions

It is that time of year again when we all think about making a New Year's resolution. Maybe the sculptor, Henry Moore, had the right idea when he said:
I think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the years'.
As people in recovery know, it is always a good idea to take one day at a time, so maybe that is how we all can keep our New Year's resolutions...that is, by keeping them one day at a time. While adults will frequently make a New Year's resolution, what about children?

Should we teach our children about making resolutions?

This is not a rhetorical question, but more a conversation starter. We know that our children learn most things from their parents, close family members, and their teachers. As toddlers, they also learn from their peers and this peer influence takes on greater importance as time goes by.  The bottom line is that children learn from examples and this applies to resolutions. For example, a child might hear their parent resolving to exercise a bit more in the New Year, or quit smoking, lose a few pounds, watch less television, or read more; however, how often do our children overhear a parent resolve to be more kind to their friends, co-workers, or even family members.

Perhaps this year we should teach our children that a good resolution is not to "bully" their siblings, friends or peers!

Two new studies examine the effects of "bullying" regarding allergies and obesity...

In this month's on-line version of Pediatrics (The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) there were two studies that deal with bullying.

We hope you will take the time to review the studies and their results; furthermore, think about how to intervene with your own children and how they treat their peers when it comes to food allergies and obesity.

Overview of studies' findings...

Robin Wulffson, MD, reviewed these studies for EmaxHealth. According to Dr. Wulffson, the study regarding bullying and weight loss treatment indicated:
"The researchers noted that their results indicated that 64% of the study participants reported weight-based victimization, and the risk of bullying increased with body weight. Most participants reported that they had endured bullying for one year (78%), and 36% were teased/bullied for five years. Peers (92%) and friends (70%) were the most commonly reported perpetrators, followed by adult perpetrators, including physical education teachers/sport coaches (42%), parents (37%), and teachers (27%). Weight-based bullying was most frequently reported in the form of verbal teasing (75–88%), relational victimization (74–82%), cyber-bullying (59–61%), and physical aggression (33–61%). In addition, the bullying was commonly experienced in multiple locations at school."
Regarding the bullying and food allergies study, Dr. Wulffson offers:
"During allergy clinic visits, patient and parent (83.6% mothers) pairs were consecutively recruited to independently answer questionnaires. Bullying due to food allergy or for any cause, quality of life, and distress in both the child and parent were evaluated via questionnaires. The investigators found that of 251 families who completed the surveys, 45.4% of the children and 36.3% of their parents reported that the child had been bullied or harassed for any reason. Furthermore, 31.5% of the children and 24.7% of the parents noted that the bullying was specifically due to food allergy. The bullying, which was primarily done by classmates, often included threats with foods. Bullying was significantly associated with decreased quality of life and increased distress in parents and children, independent of the reported severity of the allergy. A greater frequency of bullying was related to a poorer quality of life. In only about half (52.1%) of the bullying incidents, were the parents aware of the child-reported bullying. The investigators found that parental knowledge of bullying was associated with better quality of life and less distress in the bullied children."

Parenting skills regarding food allergies and childhood obesity...

Whether you believe it or not, there was a time a few decades ago when few children had been diagnosed with food allergies and very few dealt with obesity. You might be able to recall the first time a neighbor explained that their child was allergic to peanuts or milk products. Such a declaration may have forced you to rethink the menu for a five-year-old's birthday party. Should you offer ice-cream to everyone else (except the child with the food allergy) or should you forego offering ice-cream to anyone? Should you put away the M&M peanut candy favors or should you police the activities of the one child who is allergic to peanuts? Would you know what to do if a child experienced a life-threatening allergic reaction? Should you gently explain to your own child that their little friend has an allergy?

We are all in this together...

Parents of children with food allergies need to communicate with school administrators, teachers, neighbors, babysitters, parents of their child's friends. Teachers and day-care providers need to be aware and watch for signs of bullying resulting from food allergies and obesity. It is important to understand that people who have experienced a negative reaction to a food product will display more anxiety when teased, threatened or bullied. Primary care physicians need to watch for signs of social isolation and school avoidance, depression, substance use, and anxiety.

We, as parents, need to set a good example. HealthDay reports and quotes Dr. Mark Schuster, chief of general pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital:
'Parents of classmates, he noted, may unwittingly encourage bullying if they complain because they can't send their child to school with grandma's famous peanut butter cookies. "When it comes to food allergy, people often roll their eyes," Schuster said. "They think that kids are just trying to avoid a food they don't like. And they may not understand that food allergies can be serious."'

Happy New Year

We wish our readers a Happy New Year! If you are considering a New Year's resolution, remember resolutions are easier kept one day at a time.

Imagine what a world this could be, if we took a few minutes each day to teach our children to use their words and actions to do a little good each day of the New Year.

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