How to Prepare Children with IBS for School
If your child has IBS, she’s probably feeling the anxiety of being different on top of the anxiety caused by her condition. Most kids just want to fit in with their friends and not stand out as different — especially at school, where standing out can be brutal.
Try packing a discreet survival kit with things to help her feel safer at school, such as a thermos of her favorite soothing tea, soup, or stew, or some rice crackers or plain mini rice cakes. Just be sure to check the school’s regulations for bringing in outside food (and you should probably forgo the matches in this case).
Preparation is the key for helping your child feel safe at school. It may take some time to settle on lunches that nourish without embarrassing. After she has a better understanding of food’s effect on her condition, let your child help you shop for the foods she’s put on her own safe list and work together to create lunches that satisfy both hunger and the need to fit in.
For kids with IBS, sitting in a classroom under scrutiny of the teacher can be upsetting. Putting her hand up to be excused to go to the bathroom can be difficult for any kid, but if your IBS kid has to raise her hand to be excused five or six times a day, that can feel like torture (and that emotional strain isn’t going to help the situation any).
And the bathroom isn’t the only issue. Kids tend to get hungry throughout the day, and a standard tip for people with IBS is to eat smaller meals throughout the day, but your student’s snack and mealtimes are limited when she’s in school.
Explain your child’s condition to her teacher, principal, and school nurse so that they understand what may happen in the course of the day. Her teacher may already be aware that frequent bathroom breaks have been necessary, but a sit-down meeting can drive the point home.
You also want to work out a plan for necessary snacking, such as having your student keep a stash of snacks in her locker or in the nurse’s office and duck out of class to keep her eating schedule on track.
Class celebrations are another challenge for kids with IBS. Having a conversation about why she can’t share in the cupcakes is mandatory, and if you’ve already done the food diary and elimination diet with your kid, she knows that the sweet treat, no matter how delicious, can still send her to the bathroom in an unpleasant way.
Teachers generally send home a note to let parents know when a cupcake or pizza day is pending. Make sure you’ve put a treat in your kid’s lunchbag to help soften the blow.
No matter what age you are, in many ways, school and IBS do not mix well. If you are an adult with IBS going to school, you can let your instructor know that you have a condition that may require you to leave the room occasionally. Sit near the door so your comings and goings are less distracting.
Your class schedule may be more flexible around your eating schedule, but you may also want to mention that you may sometimes need to bring a snack to class.