Friday, January 30, 2015

Bullying About Gluten? Yes, It’s a Thing

As unfortunate as it is, bullying is a nearly inescapable aspect of childhood. Kids sure can be mean about anything, it seems. Our kids, or we as kids ourselves, have probably all had an experience or two with being ridiculed for something. Whether it’s the clothes we wear, the friends we choose or whatever, if we’re different we can be a target.

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when people think about gluten-free living, but many of us know there’s quite a precedent for bullying about gluten, as well. It’s true! A recent study showed that 35 percent of kids over age 5 with food allergies have experienced some sort of harassment. So sad! What’s worse is, 65 percent of those children reported feeling sad or embarrassed about their treatment.

As the popularity of the gluten-free lifestyle has grown, so has the bullying aspect, it seems. Recently, the Disney Channel pulled an episode of its popular show “Jessie” off the air due to negative reaction. In the episode, a gluten-free character named Stuart is repeatedly harassed about his dietary needs, including recoiling in horror as kids throw pancakes at him.

Poor Stuart, it makes me want to do something to help him! Maybe we can.

Education seems like a good place to start – both for the gluten-free kiddos and those around them. Maybe if we inform our kids about their intolerance or allergy, and also make sure their teachers, etc. know the intricacies of their condition, it might make for a safer environment. And maybe it would be a tough sell, but educating those bullies is the most direct way to curb this harmful behavior. What if those kids knew that people like Stuart don’t eat differently because they want to be “weird” – they do so because they have to?

Part of me thinks a lot of this bullying stuff might be happening in the lunch room. I read somewhere that sending foods that look “normal” might kill some of this stuff at the root, and I agree! With all the gluten-free options available to us like cupcakes, pretzels and so much more, packing a gluten-free lunch in disguise shouldn't be too difficult.

Constant communication, as with most things, might be the biggest cure of all. If we’re talking with our kids on a regular basis and really getting to know their daily victories and defeats, we become better teammates. And those kids in the survey and young people like Stuart? They need teammates!

Let’s join forces to help become those teammates for Stuart and all the other youngsters out there facing bullying because of their diets!

Also, you can learn more about the controversy surrounding the Disney show here:

…And check out some great tips from Celiac Central on decreasing bullying here:

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