Minion-Free School Year: How I'm Helping My Child & Her Teacher
Someone please tell me that I am not the only mom who is counting down the minutes until school begins. Seriously, I can't be the only one can I?! I am choosing to view at my anticipation as growth. Last year I had a weak moment of mommy fear and almost didn't send them. Not because I couldn't stand the idea of being away from my little shadows or because they weren't ready for preschool, but because I wasn't sure preschool was ready for them. Specifically Q.
Don't get me wrong, she is wonderful. And funny. And bright. And friendly. And thirteen kinds of awesome! But she is also strong willed, impulsive, and because of her super strong sensitivity to food dyes (more on that in a minute), she turns into one of those crazy purple minions if she so much as looks at a pink frosted cupcake or God help us, eats a fruit snack. Seriously, God help us!
You can understand why I was a bit fretful, right?
When Q was two-and-half, her behavior issues were out of control. She was extremely impulsive, aggressive, and hyperactive. Much more than the "typical" two-year-old. I knew in my mommy gut that her behavior was not normal, and after a couple visits with our pediatrician, my suspicions were confirmed: Q was demonstrating stereotypical ADHD behaviors. After some research and advice from others, we started Q on a dye free diet. The Southhampton University Study on Food Dyes linked hyperactivity in children to certain dyes in foods, and after the sudy was released, the European Parliament passed a law in 2010 that any foods containing synthetic food dyes must have a warning label stating "consumption may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children." The Center for Science and Public Interest has also released more helpful information and scientific studies about the risks (specifically on behavior) that food dyes pose to our children and their correlation to ADHD. You can read more about that here: Food Dyes, A Rainbow of Risks.
Having a year under my mommy belt has helped me feel much more prepared and comfortable with the upcoming school year. I have been proactive, talking with her teacher and the director of the school several times (yes, I am THAT parent) as well as doing my best to be proactive with things we know that set Q off into purple minion mode.
Here are a few things that I have done to help everyone have a successful and minion free school year:
The Snack Box.
I was very clear with Q's teacher that I don't expect her to cater to our dye-free diet, and she assured me that she will try her hardest to provide dye-free snacks for all of the students. But just in case little Susan brings sugar cookies topped with blue frosting and rainbow sprinkles for her birthday treat, I am providing the teacher with a snack box filled with freak-out free snacks.
The Allergy Bracelet.
This time of year is tough on teachers. One way that we are going to remind them about Q's dye allergy is with her "super duper double awesome" (in the words of CeCe) Allergy Bracelet. I will have her wear it the first couple weeks of school as a gentle and cute way to remind her teacher. Easy and cute, YES PLEASE!
This is hard. How do you talk with your child's teacher about their struggles without setting them up to be labeled "the bad kid" or the "needy kid?" I know that this is an issue for many parents and I am not immune from that struggle. As I was chatting with her teacher, I made a concerted effort to balance the good and the not-so-good. I talked to her about how much Q loves to help clean-up and that she would be very excited to be on snack time clean-up duty regularly. Then we talked about how Q has a hard time sitting still and we discussed some strategies to help her focus during story time. Then we talked about observant and smart she is; I warned her that she will notice every.single.time. that she paints her fingernails and will want to talk to her for at least four minutes about why she chose the new color. And then we laughed and she said that she was so excited to have Q in her classroom. Those words were like water to my mommy soul. I so want others to see her 13 kinds of awesome, and by balancing her strengths with her struggles, I feel like the conversation I had with her teacher was helpful in setting Q up to succeed in school this year.
I hope that this was helpful as you prepare to send your sweetie back to school. I would love to hear how you are making this transition as minion-free as possible!