Clementine Advisory Board Member Cherie Monarch shares an 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”.
10 Things you need to know before you speak (read 1-4 HERE)
5. It is estimated that at least 10 to 15 percent of children and up to 80 percent of all special needs children struggle with some form of feeding disorder or challenges. Some children have complex food challenges, allergies, or anxieties – they can be physical or mental. Many of these challenges are not obvious. My child may have severe anxiety in social situations or loud environments (like a lunchroom) and become overwhelmed and distracted. Therefore, they must consume calorically dense, safe foods – foods you may not consider nutritious – in an effort to meet their energy requirement for the remainder of the school day. My child may have ARFID – Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder and may avoid foods based on certain qualities – such as texture, color, taste, or temperature. As such, my child may only have 3-4 foods total that he/she will eat. If you shame my child about what is in their lunchbox, they may eat nothing. Your words may have just eliminated one of my child’s “safe” foods – therefore harming them and erasing a source of energy.
6. There is little research on the effectiveness of healthy eating and weight initiatives in schools. In fact, there have been studies that have indicated that a potential unintended consequence of these programs and schools monitoring lunches was the development of an eating disorder in children who were susceptible or genetically predisposed. The children who are negatively impacted by these programs are typically students who excel in academics and extra-curricular activities and view the healthy weight initiatives as another measure of their success. So, please be careful with your words. They may compel to my perfectionistic child, my rule follower, to embark on a competition to be the “healthiest” kid. I know you would not want to be the trigger that caused a child to develop a life-threatening eating disorder or unhealthy food and exercise behaviors.
7. Research suggests that up to 50% of the population demonstrate problematic or disordered relationships with food, body and exercise. In our culture, there is an obsession with size and weight (thinness), diet and exercise. In fact, research has indicated that 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat. Your words may result in my child having disordered eating which could include chronic yo-yo dieting, frequent weight fluctuations, rigid and unhealthy food and exercise regime, feelings of guilt and shame every time my child eats a food you have instructed is “unhealthy” or they gain weight or they are unable to maintain exercise habits. Your instruction could potentially cause my child to be preoccupied with food, body and exercise that causes them distress and has a negative impact on their quality-of-life. It could result in my child using compensatory measures such as exercise, food restriction, fasting, purging, laxative use, etc., in an effort to “offset” any food consumed. It is estimated 35-57% of adolescent girls and 20-30% of adolescent boys engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives. You likely do you not realize the impact your words can have on my child’s mental and physical health – for the rest of their life. It is important you understand disordered eating is a serious health concern. Detrimental consequences could include a greater risk of obesity (the very thing you’re trying to prevent), eating disorders, bone loss, gastrointestinal disturbances, electrolyte imbalances, low heart rate and blood pressure, increased anxiety and depression, and social isolation.