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Tips for DCs to explain to others why the eat differently

(11 Posts)
pimmsgalore Sun 17-Mar-13 13:45:23

Just after some advice really.
My DD (12) has recently been diagnosed with a condition called cyclic vomiting syndrome. This is because she is apparently intolerant (not allergic) to amines, which are in everything. She has had to radically change her diet due to this, which is complicated further by the fact that she is away at boarding school (due to DHs job and frequent overseas moves). She can no longer have a lot of the staple foods that school serve and has to have a special meal prepared for her. Luckily if they get it wrong she is now able to tell when she is going to have an episode and as soon as she starts to feel unwell takes some very strong anti emetics so that we don't have hours of vomiting for weeks on end.
Since changing her diet she has thrived, no longer tired constantly, gaining weight, happy in herself and I have my wonderful little girl back (although I realise not for long as she is about to become a teenager)
However, in the boarding house they get tuck on a Wednesday night. She cannot have any of it so the staff and I have been baking and buying special items that are only for her. This is causing some resentment amongst the other girls and they are starting to tease and bully her about her being "special". One particularly nasty girl said "you make yourself ill so that you get attention and different food, you enjoy it". DD was very upset by this, the house staff stamped down on it hard, but she is still upset as she said "who would want to spend 6 weeks off school in and out of hospital, on morphine drips and throwing up"

Has anyone else experienced similar with their DCs?
Do you have any stock one liners I can give DD to combat the comments from other girls?
DD can see the positive steps the diet has made and is very happy now to have control back over her illness but I wonder if she will still feel like this 6 months a year down the line if the questions from others about it continue. Teenagers don't like being different.

purples Sun 17-Mar-13 14:52:53

On tuck night why not provide your DD with a little extra so she can share? That way she is not seen as "special" or "spoilt", and she will feel much more included if the others able to eat the same as her.

pimmsgalore Sun 17-Mar-13 14:58:16

purples I did send in extra at the start of term however the boarding staff got toffies and fudge, which she can have, and have said only she can have them as they are expensive. Also as the term has gone on and she has nearly run out of a couple of her spreads which I made the staff have told her to stop sharing. Maybe next term I need to send in a little more, I didn't really think the other girls would want a "no lemon" lemon spread on their toast as opposed to the chocolate spread they get

purples Sun 17-Mar-13 16:39:33

Its wonderful your DD is putting on weight and enjoying life more. My 2 DDs are 11 and 13, so I know there are alot of pressures on girls that age.

Its good the staff are supporting your DD, sound like you've found a good school, but must be difficult for you to have her board away from you, especially when problems arise.

And it's good that other girls like the no lemon, lemon spread as it normalises the food that your DD is eating. Its probably expensive (most "special" diet foods are), but I think I'd invest in a few more jars; or cheat a little and buy a couple of jars of lemon curd/ lemon marmalade/strawberry jam to give to staff so there is more choice than just chocolate spread and your DDs lemon spread. That might eke out your DDs supply. And on a positive note might also make the other girls see your DD food intolerances in a positive light ie they get more choice!

All teenagers (infact all of us) have something that they are sensitive about, and the other girls making comments about her unusual diet is going to happen, you just have to keep boosting her confidence/self esteem so it's not a problem for her. The other girls may just be curious about the diet, in which case they don't mean to upset your DD; but if they are being malicious and bullying in their comments then, they will only continue if they know it hurts and upsets your DD (regardless of staff). My DD was bullied and in the end it took only a little gesture/few words from the bully to upset my DD, it took alot of courage for her to understand the nature of what was going on and to realise that reacting and getting upset only made things worse, she had to learn different stratagies to cope with the comments ( just laugh and ignore them, just ignore them, make a joke of things, or make a comment back) i know that is easier said than done. There is not really a magic phrase, I wish there was.

pimmsgalore Sun 17-Mar-13 17:17:52

thanks purple you have made me realise I just need to make her see the positives and try and make her ignore the other comments. It is so hard when she is away and struggling with things as I am not there to give her the hug she needs.

We aren't supposed to send in food with the boarders but I think I may ask if after Easter I can send a lot more of my DDs food in so that others can share more. The house don't like food from home as they have to deal with the DCs that have allergies/intolerances so I will ask if I send in spread with a list of the ingredients on the side if this is ok for her to then share.

My DH has been away for 6 months now, not home for another month, and in the time he has been away we have gone from being fine to being ill in hospital on morphine with no one knowing what is wrong to having a diagnosis to changing our diet and now back to being fine. I think having to cope with all that on my own, whilst she is 100+ miles away, has maybe worn me down to breaking point when she phones home in tears because girls are being mean about her special diet. Your words have cheered me up and made me realise that actually we are in a much better place than we were 5 months ago and I will talk with her over Easter and make her understand that walking away or laughing is going to stop the comments.

eragon Mon 18-Mar-13 09:10:15

I think the staff need to deal with this as bullying and should come under the bullying policy. what do they say about this? whats their pastrol system?

megandraper Mon 18-Mar-13 09:51:57

This might sound a bit odd, but I plan on telling my (coeliac) children something which I have gradually realised during the course of living life with a non-food-related disability. When people say or do unpleasant things in reaction to your disability, then your disability has done you a service by revealing that person's true personality. That's a handy shortcut when getting to know people.

Also, I wouldn't advise your DC to engage with the specifics of what the person has said. I'd suggest something along the lines of 'What a nasty thing to say, why would you say something so bitchy/mean.' Or 'Why are you so interested in what other people eat?' or 'What's your problem?' Pointing out the unpleasantness in the other person, rather than defending her diet.

And also (which again, I am trying to do with my DC, who are much younger so bullying isn't an issue yet), I would keep reinforcing to your DC how brilliantly the diet is working for her, how fantastic it is that all it takes for her to be well is to keep to the diet' etc. etc. Keep building up and stressing the positives of the diet - the difference it is making to her body.

And finally, I plan on saying to my DC, when they are approaching the teenage years and will have to take more control of their own diet - 'It's up to you, you have the choice about giving your body what it needs to be healthy and strong, or you can hurt your body by giving it damaging food. Sometimes that decision will feel tough, but I know what a strong, determined person you are, and I believe that you can make the tough decision when it counts.' So, facing up to / putting up with other people's negative reactions will be part of what can make the 'right' decision tough, but I want to make my DC feel that by doing that, they are proving their own strength and capability - seeing the bad experience as 'character building', I suppose.

Good luck to your DD. I thought DC1 had CVS for a while, but it turned otu to be coeliac. I read up on it though, so I know a bit about how touch it can be.

eragon Mon 18-Mar-13 10:10:57

I am of the opinon that the school should be doing more to help here, as your daughter is still getting over the shock of being seriously ill and adjusting to the new diet and drug routine.

what have they done so far?

pimmsgalore Mon 18-Mar-13 11:32:23

School have been good, the girl in question has been given a red strike (which is the boarding house equivalent to a detention), she has also had a good talking to about what she has said. They have held a Q&A session about CVS and my DDs special diet and talked with all the girls about how well DD is now and they all agreed they can see how better she is.

It has been tough coming to terms with the illness and the special diet and I think that the girl who is being mean has picked up on DDs confidence being knocked.

The schools bullying policy is very good, they told 1 child to leave last term as they have a strict policy on bullying and this boy continued even though he had been warned, it is a 3 strikes and your out policy.

The main issue is getting DD to talk to the teachers, she is convinced that if you speak out then the bullying gets worse (which having been at this school for 2 years now I know is not the truth). I think on Friday when I go down to pick up for Easter I will have a face to face chat with the head of pastoral care, as emails and phone calls are ok but not great. I have been forwarding DDs emails to me to the head of pastoral so she is fully aware of what is going on and is once again going to talk to the girls today. I do believe they will tell the other girl that she is at strike no 2 and 1 more and she will at best be suspended if not expelled.

I will also be telling DD to not rise to anything that is said as when she is upset the bully gains control and one thing we have learned over the past 6 months is that DD needs to be in control as then she is healthy.

I had good news last night DH is coming home earlier than expected so will at least see the DCs before they go back from Easter break so I am hoping that will also give DD a boost in confidence, he has over a month off when he gets back so is planning on being around to watch DD in sports matches etc which will also be good for her confidence.

freefrommum Mon 18-Mar-13 13:26:38

Most kids think that speaking out about bullying will make it worse and take some convincing that this is not the case. I was bullied as a child and didn't want my parents to speak to the school as I was sure that it would make it worse but the school dealt with it really well and it stopped. I think you're right, you need to work on your DD's confidence and teach her to ignore any comments as much as possible (or respond with something like 'get a life and stop sticking your nose in mine, it's pathetic!'). You also need to reassure her that the school will do everything they can to ensure the bullying stops and that speaking out is a good thing and won't make things worse.

It is hard for any child who is 'different' in some way. My DD is 11 (nearly 12) and diagnosed withe coeliac disease 2 years ago so we're just heading into the difficult teenage years and I'm worrying about her being singled out because of her restricted diet. I also have a DS aged 5 who has multiple food allergies and worry about how he will deal with being 'different' as he gets older. However, the sad fact is that some children are just plain cruel and looking for any excuse to pick on others. I was picked on for being perceived as clever and posh (ha ha!) and because we had to move around a lot I was always the new girl which didn't help. I didn't have any medical problems but was even picked on for being blonde and pale-skinned! I do think that these bullies are a bit like sharks, they can smell blood in the water from a mile away, ie they can tell when someone is vulnerable or lacking in confidence and take advantage of the fact. It's often rooted in jealousy or a desire to conceal their own self-esteem issues by picking on others.

I hope the bullying stops and that your DD's confidence grows so that she can deal with this sort of thing better in future. The bullies must never win.

purples Mon 18-Mar-13 13:31:44

Thats really lovely that DH is coming home sooner than expected, its good for you to have a pleasant surprise for a change! It'll give you a bit more support and I'm sure DD will be overjoyed to see her dad.

Have to agree with "bedhopper" that stressing the positives to your DD is important. Your DD has come along way already and should be proud of herself; boosting her confidence will help her deal with any nasty (or just curious) comments about her unusual diet.
Also liked "bedhopper" good advice, to point out the nastiness of the bullies comments rather than defend her diet. Again the more you and her teachers can boost her confidence the easier she will find it to deal with these bullies.
Increasingly, as she gets older, she will have to take more responsibility for her own well being, so boosting her confidence in her own abilities is essential.

I think you need the school to normalise your DD as much as possible. The school needs to make sure your DD has the correct food, but at the same time, not make a fuss about her diet infront of the other girls; It may be wrong but if she is seen as "special" then it will cause jealousy.
Your DD is after all just a normal teenager, and that's how here peers should see her, not just as someone who is labelled as food intolerant.

Have a wonderful Easter, together as a family.

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