As parents, we look to support our children. It is important to us that they feel safe, loved, and understood. However, if you are a parent with a child with food allergies and yourself have never had any, you may find it difficult to relate to your child. Without knowing how food allergies can affect your daily life, how could you possibly help your child through it? While every child is different, we have found some patterns among those in the food allergy community and have compiled a list of things your child may be dealing with and creative ways to help them through it.
Fear of an Allergy Attack
It is only natural that children with food allergies be fearful of having an allergic reaction. For them, this is truly a matter of life or death. From a young age, these children are taught that some foods are bad and dangerous, and it is only normal that they become wary. To them, any food that they do not recognize could be bad. Given this, when these children go to school and are exposed to foods they may have never been exposed to before, they are likely to become nervous and anxious.
Solution = Keep Your Child Educated
Keep the lines of communication open with your child. They must know that food isn’t the devil. Be honest with your child about their allergy and the best ways to treat them. They should know to avoid sharing snacks and should start reading labels as young as they can, but at the same time, they should feel comfortable eating the foods you’ve packed for them. Please encourage your child to educate themselves and their friends. Ensure they remember that it is important to be wary, but knowledge is power, and they do not have to feel powerless to their allergy.
Fear of Social Isolation
Our culture is filled with food-related activities. Every birthday party has cake, most teen outings end up with pizza, and snacks cover the table at almost every play date. Given this, for children with food allergies, not being able to partake in the eating can feel like social isolation. This is especially true when they end up with separate goodie bags or a cake no one likes at their own party. This may seem like a small problem, one you can’t necessarily relate to, but when food is a social experience, being different can feel like being left out.
Solution = Help Educate Others
Instead of allowing your child to focus on the negative parts of living with food allergies, urge them to see it as an opportunity—an opportunity to find new foods and recipes and a chance to embrace this unique fact about them. Push your child to teach the other kids in their class about food allergies, maybe even bring in a favorite educational book to share with the class. Normally, children act strangely when dealing with something that they don’t understand, so make sure food allergies are something that they do understand.
Fear of Doctors Visits
Nobody likes going to the doctor, especially not children. And children with food allergies are constantly finding themselves seeing new specialists and trying new treatments. Having to go in and face their allergy on such a regular basis may quickly become a great source of anxiety for your child. Not only are they being exposed to the food that they have grown so accustomed to avoid, but they are also in a small office surrounded by people speaking about things they might not understand.
Solution = Be Honest
It is only natural that, as parents, we try and shield our children from things that may scare them. However, we must remember that our child is the one with a food allergy. If we are going to keep them from getting nervous every time they visit a doctor, it could be beneficial to be an active part of their treatment. Additionally, by allowing them to be a part of their treatment, you may find that they become calmer regarding their allergies as a whole. Once they understand their food allergies, it may become easier for them to face them.
Food allergies are tough. Not only can they have terrifying physical reactions, but they can also have day-to-day effects as well. Given this, young children may find it difficult to deal with this on a day-to-day basis. Our instincts push us to protect our children, but sometimes that leaves them in the dark. Children are more resilient than we give them credit for, and more often than not, the best way to support them is to include them. Like adults, children need to feel in control and understand what is going on with their bodies.