As teachers, we are expected to be the fonts of all knowledge where children are concerned. From a parent’s perspective, guidance is often needed and so there is an unwritten expectation that teachers will make suggestions to parents when required. That doesn’t mean teachers are interfering. Quite the contrary. Teachers are often reluctant to make suggestions as they may feel a situation is beyond their scope as teachers but often parents simply don’t know when something is inappropriate. Like diet. I believe teachers could gently advise without causing offence. And this happens all the time, fortunately. But when professional help is sought and is inappropriate, what is the parent to do?
I am referring to a conversation I had recently with a parent whose child was deemed underweight and sent to a dietician who told the mother to give the child ice-cream daily and put a bag of potato crisps in his school lunch daily. Yes, really! Naturally, I was horrified. Not only are there plenty of ways for a child to get extra calories from healthy food – root vegetables, avocadoes, pasta dishes, fruit, milk, yoghurt, bread – but more importantly, what unhealthy messages are the child and parent getting because this advice comes from a professional whose advice we should accept? There could be long-term reliance on unhealthy foods, those that contain chemicals, sugar, excess salt and bad fats, but also the view that these foods are acceptable on a daily basis – because the expert said so! Just consider for a moment the long-term health implications of eating junk food daily. Children need to form good habits.
I asked the mother what she intended doing and fortunately her response was, ‘Nothing.’ She told me her eldest boy had had a similar ‘problem’ when he was that age but after puberty he started to put on weight (muscle weight), continued with his sporting activities and was very healthy. I was relieved. What a sensible mother!
At this time of year we all eat way too much of all those Christmas goodies but that is the whole point. Like party food at any time of year, it is occasional, not daily. It is not what you do occasionally that does you any harm but what you do daily that matters. As my mother used to say, ‘A little bit of what you fancy does you good.’ Yes, Mum, that’s right. A little bit occasionally. It wouldn’t be special if we had it all the time.
And on that note, have a wonderful Christmas break wherever in the world you are.