Will my child be ok, will they take to the new environment , will they make friends, will they like their teacher.
I can tell you as the mother of a child with life threatening food allergies, the balance of excitement and anxiousness is tipped somewhat more than it is for the average parent.
Our 3yo Miss J (severe allergies to dairy, eggs, peanuts, treenuts, kiwifruit) starts 3yo Kindergarten (Pre-School in some areas), this coming Tuesday.
It will be the first time Miss J has been out of the care of a member of our family.
We had planned to send Miss J to daycare at 6 months, so I could resume my career in thoroughbred bloodstock. However Miss J’s first anaphylactic reaction to dairy, at 5 months, put paid to those plans.
For the first 2 years of her life I spent every day with Miss J, we were living 2 hours from my husbands family, interstate from my family, and the local daycare providers attitude to food allergies, and knowledge of the related issues left a lot to be desired.
In mid 2014 hubby & I decided to make the big move interstate to my hometown, to be closer to family, so we could get some support with raising our daughter, and managing her life threatening allergies.
Since our move life has improved, Miss J has regular days at my parents, and in the last 4 months has enjoyed several “sleepover adventures”, which have been a blessing.
Our daughter is what you would call a tad precocious, a threenager for sure, we realised mid way through last year that she would benefit from attending 3yo Kinder. She attends playgroup, and loves playing with the other kids, but as an only child with no local cousins, it has been a challenge to find kids to socialise her with.
Finding The Right Kinder Fit
In mid 2015 we started looking into the local 3yo Kindergartens, there are 2 that are offered through the Council, and 1 private Kinder. I visited the 2 Council Kinders, the teachers were friendly and the environment very welcoming, however when we visited the private Kinder, run through a local Kinder to Year 12 College, we were blown away.
The attitude of the staff to food allergies was brilliant, their answers to my multitude of questions was spot on, they have twice yearly anaphylaxis training, one of the Kinder teachers has two brothers with food allergies, and the Admissions Officer of the school’s son who is in the Kinder classes has allergies also. So awareness was high, and their procedures with regards to managing and treating food allergies was very encouraging.
Also, the fact that I wasn’t made to feel foolish, when I broke down in tears explaining why we had moved back to my hometown, was a welcome change, they were understanding and supportive. They said that they encourage parents to be involved in the Kinder, that if I want to come in and read books or do craft with the kids I can, I’m not sure if I will do that though, I think it might distract Miss J.
The 3yo Kinder is a 3 hour session, twice a week, where the only food allowed is fruit, and the only drink allowed is water. While Miss J has a kiwifruit allergy, the fact that only fruit will be eaten, is a load off my mind, at least for this year!
The Kinder has strict rules about sharing food, the kids are monitored during snack time, and are not allowed to share food. Miss J will sit with all of the other kids, with the teachers checking the food of the children close by for any allergens.
Miss J knows all about her “aggerlies”, she knows she can’t eat eggs, cows milk, any nuts, or the “yukky green kiwi”, and she has been excellent when at playgroup in not accepting any food/drink from anyone unless I give her the green light. We have spoken to her numerous times about not sharing food or drink, and I think she has a good understanding of how to keep safe. However kids are kids, and mistakes happen!
When I queried the staff about treating reactions, they assured me that action plans are followed, and that they prefer to err on the side of caution, which was music to my ears. They will be keeping Miss J’s Epi-Pens close by her at all times, they will be held in the teachers office, and taken into the playground during play time, and if any excursions outside of the playground area, the teacher will carry them.
After the initial meeting at the Kinder we met with the Principal for an interview, and again it was reassuring to listen to his thoughts re managing food allergies, they are definitely taking it seriously.
Since signing up for Kinder we have had several calls and emails from the school asking how Miss J’s food challenges (to baked egg and to baked dairy) went. We met with Miss J’s teacher and went through her action plan, she also showed us how they display information on children with “extra care issues”, ie food allergies, food intolerances, asthma, development issues, access issues, etc.
Each child has an A4 sheet on the wall in the teachers offices that has their photo and relevant information re their allergies etc. It was interesting that the child on the wall on a red sheet of paper was one with anaphylactic allergies, I thought that was an excellent way to differentiate and highlight the dangers.
Another positive of the Kinder we chose, is that their class size is smaller than the Council backed options, and to me, smaller class size means less chance of a reaction being overlooked, and more chance of the teacher getting to know Miss J, and therefore her allergies, better.
Preparing For The Big Day
Over the past 4 months I have been getting organised, both practically and mentally.
I have purchased a red zippered, insulated medical bag with a medical cross sign on it, for Miss J’s Epi-Pens (from My Food Allergy Friends), and a “stop – epipen inside” badge to go on the pocket, and on her backpack, along with some stickers for her lunchbox, listing her allergens (from Star Allergy Alerts).
I purchased an “allergy t-shirt”, that lists her major allergens, (again from Star Allergy Alerts). I think I’ll wait a couple of sessions before sending her to Kinder in the t-shirt.
I know this seems like a Star Allergy a Thon, but trust me these items haven’t been gifted, it just happens that they’ve been the website I’ve found the most relevant items on!
So now it is Monday, the day before Miss J starts at Kinder!
Miss J is beyond excited, we’ve been counting down the sleeps for weeks, she can’t wait to get there, and to be honest I think she will thrive and flourish.
Am I nervous? Hell yes.
Am I going to be sitting in the car, in the carpark of the Kinder for the first few sessions? Probably, no ok, let’s be honest, absolutely I will be, probably for more than a few sessions.
Will I gradually get used to leaving her care to the professionals for 3 hours twice a week? Yes, as they say, it won’t happen overnight but it will happen!
Will my heart jump at every call during those 2 x 3 hour morning sessions? Of course, it still jumps when hubby calls when he has her solo!
Having spent the best part of the past 3.5 years focussing on keeping Miss J safe, in every situation, every single day, it does feel extremely odd to be preparing to send her out into the world, “on her own”. Of course she won’t be on her own, but to me, it feels that way a tad.
Part of it is probably the same thing every mother feels, that our little one is growing up, starting on the school journey.
So from here I have to have faith, faith that the teachers will be observant and will correctly manage any situations that arise, faith that hubby and I have prepared Miss J well enough that she is ready for this big step. Faith that I won’t be a sobbing mess come Tuesday 845am!
Do you have a little one with food allergies heading to Kinder or School this year?
Till next time,
Mel – This Happ-y Mumma