When Kids Don't Want to Talk about their Food Allergies 0
Parents of children with food allergies have a big responsibility above and beyond the demands of everyday parenting. They read every food label to see which foods are safe for their child, are diligent with every restaurant meal, and inquire until they feel confident about the ingredients. They often have to fight for school or classroom rules to ensure a safe environment for their child.
For some families, when it comes to time outside of the family home or school, this discipline can unwind because of social concerns. Your child may say they feel uncomfortable bringing up food allergies at a friend’s house, a soccer practice or birthday party, or that they don’t want to feel different or be left out because of their allergy.
Your child may be happy she doesn’t have to share allergy information, but the allergy may also leave her feeling stressed and isolated, and she will be less safe because the people around her may not know about her allergy or how to handle a reaction.
What can parents do? While most kids feel uncomfortable standing out or being different, it’s important to teach your kids that their food allergy is just part of who they are. That managing your allergy involves teaching those around you and asking for their support. Here are some ways parents can work with their kids to make them feel comfortable sharing information about their food allergy and allergic reactions.
Teach Kids to Advocate
Remind children that we all have issues we need to manage. The issues may all be different and some are harder to manage than others, but we all have them. It is not what the difference is that is important; it is how you manage it. Learning to advocate for yourself and developing a simple process for sharing treatment information can help kids feel comfortable and reduce their stress level.
More Knowledge, Less Risk
40% of food-allergic kids have already had an anaphylactic, or life-threatening, reaction. We need to be teaching food-allergic kids that it is important for someone else in the room to also understand their allergies and how to manage reactions. It is great and essential to teach kids to self-manage their allergies, but that should not be the only line of defense. We expect two means of exit from a building if there is a fire, shouldn’t we apply the same standards to managing anaphylaxis? The child who has been trained to manage a reaction may do a fantastic job managing a reaction, but if they don’t, what is the backup plan?
Prepare to Educate People Who Don’t Understand
There may be instances where a family member or friend doesn’t understand the significance of having a food allergy. Providing information about your child’s allergy and how to handle allergic reactions will help them begin to understand the serious nature of a reaction. If more people are using the same standards, the knowledge level of people in your community will begin to change. To manage food allergies well, we need to make it a community issue.
It can be difficult in some instances to stand out. Teach your children the importance of advocating for themselves. Explaining their allergy to friends, neighbors or coaches should not be embarrassing. Providing allergy and treatment information is critical to their wellbeing, and they should start learning this when they are young.
Parents of kids with food allergies play a tremendous role in creating and maintaining a food-safe environment wherever their children may go. As your children grow older, it’s important to teach them that they will always need to maintain that safe environment by advocating for themselves and educating the people around them about their allergy. They should never feel that they have to hide their allergy.