Clementine Advisory Board Member Cherie Monarch conludes her important letter from a mother’s perspective in this week’s blog post. Cherie continues with an “open letter to all teachers, coaches, school personnel, educators, parents, and frankly, everyone, everywhere”.
8. Even if your words do not trigger my child to have an eating disorder or disordered eating, they may haunt them for the rest of their life. They may burden my child with thoughts every time they take a bite … they may question every food choice. They may analyze every bite they take, every meal they choose, for the rest of their life. Your instruction may make my child afraid to eat wheat, chips, cookies, ice cream, or other foods they used to love and were celebratory. Please consider your words carefully. Please don’t make my child afraid of birthday cupcakes!
9. As my child’s mother, I know best what to pack in my child’s lunchbox. There are reasons my child’s lunchbox contains the foods it does. My choices may be driven by medical, mental, or financial needs. If you have questions regarding the food in my child’s lunchbox please contact me directly. Please do not discuss this with my child or shame them.
10. It is important that my child eat the lunch I have packed. If you notice my child is consistently not eating their lunch, is giving their lunch to other students, or is throwing it away or you have concerns regarding the amount of food my child is eating, please contact me directly. There may be a serious health concern. Please do not address this with my child. Please do not comment on the amount of food they are/are not eating. I count on you to be my eyes and ears when my child is at school.
I encourage you in the future to NOT monitor any child’s lunch or food choice. To reconsider and re-examine any school-based, anti-obesity, healthy living campaigns. To consider the fact that there is little research on the effectiveness of these programs. Is the potential risk of harmful effects on children’s physical and mental health and adoption of unhealthy behaviors worth the potential gain?
So, before you speak, please think carefully about your words. You see, my child respects you. They look up to you as their teacher. Imposing your beliefs and your nutritional needs on my child may compromise their health and mental state. Please teach them that all foods fill a need – always nutritional, sometimes celebratory and always nurturing.
Please understand, I know your intentions are pure and good. For that I will be forever grateful. But in the future I would appreciate it if you do not monitor my child’s lunchbox. Please leave that to me, their mother. I know their nutritional and emotional needs better than anyone.
P.S. This article is not about monitoring lunch boxes because a child in the class may have an inadequate food supply in their lunch box or may have life-threatening food allergies. It is about the negative food talk happening in classrooms and lunchrooms, and how it affects our children. It is about food judgments and how programs that are intended to promote health sometimes have big unintended consequences.