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Help! My in-laws just 'Don't get it!'

With Halloween behind us- it’s not too early to think about Thanksgiving. And while most holidays centre around food, which provides the obvious challenges for any food allergy family, Thanksgiving is unique as it is a time when families spend a lot of time together.

Yay- sounds like bliss- families spending quality time together- what could be more beautiful! But what do you do when your extended family just….. ‘don’t get it’ when the people that are meant to always have your back, support you and be there when others aren’t.

when grandparents dont get it

What can you do (if anything) if your mother-in-law doesn’t believe in the severity of your child’s peanut allergy? Or if your sister tries to give your child a cupcake with dairy cream, ‘to test if her allergy was real.’ How do you react in a situation when your family views the whole situation as a joke- when they feel like your actions aren’t protecting your child but is just you making excuses for being a helicopter parent?

The way you are feeling is normal

What is important to realise (and this point cannot be stressed enough) is that all those confusing feelings are normal- navigating a world where allergies can kill someone you love- is scary, you question your actions every day, are you being careful enough, or too lax? Do you need to talk to your child’s teacher again, maybe the school nurse? Is your child going to come home safe from school today?

It’s a journey that can make you feel isolated and alone when you are faced daily with people who question you, servers or chefs at restaurants- the staff at your child daycare provider. It’s a journey that can generate fear, anger or frustration.

Finding Support

Having a solid support system is extremely important in order to go through a challenge emotionally and mentally healthy. If your extended family isn’t going to be the ones providing that for you- find the support somewhere else. Try finding an appropriate support group on Facebook. The most effective source of support for you would be a group based in the area you live in- for example, if you live in Canada, perhaps ‘Food Allergy Canada’ would be a place that you would feel comfortable. When the group is from your geographical location there is the benefit that you can connect with other parents that live in your vicinity.

Ignorance is not always bliss

No grandparent or sibling in the world that would knowingly or willing cause harm to their grandchild/niece/nephew. If they were watching the children in a swimming pool- no one would claim they would be negligent regarding their care- because everyone knows the extreme danger of water and drowning.

The problem generally is when it comes to food allergies is ignorance! Often adults can inaccurately compare allergies to conditions like diabetes, where some sugar isn’t dangerous but in moderation. Dr David Fischer, an allergist in Barrie, Ontario, has personally seen in his practice well-meaning grandparents mistakenly thinking that exposing their grandchildren to small amounts of their allergen will ultimately strengthen a child’s immune system over time. In most situations, open communication and understanding can go a long way especially when spouses aren’t on the same page with regards to managing the food allergies. Consider bringing them along with you on your next Doctors visit or allergy test and have them hear it straight from the medical professional what the tests have shown and what this means for the life and food management for your child. Allow them to ask questions directly to your doctor- they need to go through the acceptance process just like you and your spouse did.

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Another option is to have the Doctor teach them how to use an Epi-pen in the case of an emergency. Having a Doctor step in as an in-between can create a separation between a challenging in-law relationship and the reality that is a complicated medical situation. You can also take pictures of any allergic reactions your child has and send it to them- seeing is believing after all!

Other options

  1. Offer to host the more challenging holidays at your place and spend time at their house that you feel more comfortable with.
  2. There is no reason to inconvenience others to make special food for your child or family that you might not even trust due to cross-contamination, so ask what will be served in advance (so you child won’t feel left out) and make the same menu- allergy safe.
  3. Try and keep family times to times that are not food-related or in large groups, like fishing trips in the summer or family outings to the local park.
  4. Most importantly, remember you can’t control anyone else’s opinions or actions, only your own- so try and stay calm (no one said this is going to be easy)in the face of others not so subtle comments or facial expressions. Focus on other parts of the evening- the games, the conversation and the bonding you family and especially your children are having with their family!

Simply not showing up isn’t the answer

Let’s face it- we only get one family and that family is very important to us and our children. While some family members may never, ‘get it’, just avoiding family get-togethers and not showing up isn’t the answer. In situations where there isn’t going to be exposure to dangerous foods- there is no harm in visiting- so make sure you show up early and when things really get heated up- try, just try to see it from their point of view. Always remember that they love you and your children- and don’t mean any real harm, it doesn’t take the pain away, but it can make it easier to smile through it! So keep on smiling- we are all here supporting you.


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Meticulous in their preparations

During our recent visit to Israel, we really struggled to find food for our son who has anaphylactic level allergies to egg and sesame. We approached both restaurants and hotels and were told they were unable or unwilling to take responsibility for preparing his food.

 After learning about Dr. Eliana on-line, we contacted her in the hopes that she could provide a ‘normal’ restaurant experience for our family.

 Both she and Shani were meticulous in their preparations with the restaurants to ensure that our son had a wonderful and safe experience.

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T.M., Chicago, USA

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We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the amazing gift you have given us over this Pesach- the gift of having you with us!!!!

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My children are so grateful that they were able to be with you this Pesach. You made sure that they were so well looked after and they felt so at ease and comfortable with you! You were so amazing and approachable to them! And they LOVED all the food you so amazingly prepared (supervised allergy-free food preparation, managed menus) for them!

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We can never fully thank you enough. We truly feel that you instantly became part of our family and we look forward to G-d willing being able to be with you and plan amazing trips with you many many many more times!!!! 

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April 2016

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Thank you and may Hashem bless you for the work you do. My son Jacob said your allergy card has been very helpful. I am so grateful- beyond words.

Yasher Koach!
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Thank you for delivering our allergy free baked goods to our hotel.  We just tasted the focaccia and it was delicious!

All the best,

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T.G., Philadelphia, PA

The Allergy Card was Extremely Helpful

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G.A. Illinois USA

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