Food Allergy CANpaign: Be resilient. Be the bouncy ball.


Food Allergy CANpaign: Be resilient. Be the bouncy ball.

Part of the mission of my Food Allergy School CANpaign (1 Book, 13 Words, 1,000 Schools) is to introduce children with food allergies to the principles of CAN so that they can reach their potential academically, socially, emotionally and, ultimately, personally.

One way to achieve success is to be resilient.

Yesterday, I outlined a few of the many obstacles a child with a food allergy will endure at school. When you have an allergy, things in school will happen. While most of the challenges aren’t major, they still are still persistent… like a drip-drip-dripping faucet. And if you don’t know how to turn those drips into fuel, they will take a toll.

So how do we teach kids to be resilient?

First we need to show them what it means in a language that they can understand.

Enter the brick, a rubber band and a bouncy ball. When it comes to being resilient, is your child a brick, a rubber band, or a bouncy ball?

The brick hits the ground and shatters. Slam.

The rubber band streeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetches before snapping back to retain its original shape. It looks unaffected, but it doesn’t grow. Snap.

The bouncing ball harnesses the adversity and uses its momentum to bounce forward and higher!

When it comes to being resilient you want your child to be, of course, the bouncy ball. We must teach young kids, especially those with food allergies, to harness their adversity so they can use it to bounce forward and higher. What’s cool is that parents and teachers can teach kids how to get that bounce.

The experts I consulted when I was planning this blog said parents and educators should use their own life experiences to teach resilience.

Tell them about a time in your own lives when staying on the ground like the brick negatively affected you.  And then show them times you bounced forward and how it made a difference!

Point out examples from real life. Sports. Politics. Literature. Movies. So many lives are filled with overcoming adversity, of bouncing forward when others stayed on the ground.

Use examples from friends and family. The twitter feeds — especially the food allergy feeds — are filled with stories of resilience, people who are using their own experiences to raise awareness, create safe products, or advance research. Point out and praise these examples in a language that your child will understand.

And when your children are knocked down, help them to see their choices and alternatives.

If they didn’t make a sports team, help them to use the adversity to become a better player. Have them focus on a specific skill. Take them to see a professional game. Encourage them to write to an athlete in that sport and ask for advice.

If they didn’t make student government, use the example to help them grow as a leader. Go to the bookstore and grab a leadership book. While most young people aren’t going to want to read a “boring business book,” give them an incentive to read it. OR, challenge them to research leadership traits and write their own “cool book” for young people!

Of course, when you see your child displaying resilience, praise it.

Oh, one more thing…  experts warn that children learn resilience at home.

So when you hit a life-curve…

Don’t be that brick. That’s living in The Land of NOT.

Don’t even be a rubber band. That isn’t showing growth.

Be the bouncy ball and bounce-bounce-bounce your way forward. Your kids will be watching how high you can bounce.


JJ Vulopas is a senior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate for young people, JJ has lived with food allergies his entire life. He is the author of the children's book, Land of Not. You can read his daily blog at and follow him @thelandofcan on Twitter and Instagram.