An enlightening study published by The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology concludes that overall children with Food Allergies ‘are safer and more responsible children than those without.’ (See additional data from the study below)
Food Allergy Concierge consulted with several professionals, including Judy Bar Eitan for a deeper understanding and insight into the findings of this study.
As the first study of its kind- it provides some encouragement for parents and children living intimately with Food Allergies, that although the challenges are huge at the end there may be some benefits that result from the journey. The study takes a ‘comprehensive assessment of Food Allergy- related risk-taking behaviour among AYA (adolescents and young adults) and attempts to identify patterns of risk-taking behaviours among AYA.’ (See sidebar for results in numbers)
Professionals note that children who have a good sense of self-worth will be more proficient at handling peer pressures and not falling victim to them. These skills are vital for ensuring a healthy and smooth journey as the child matures through their teenage years. Judy Bar Eitan urges parents not to underestimate their role in ensuring this incredible outcome of a safer child becomes a reality. She says that a child will only be able to develop into a safer and more responsible teenager and young adult if the parent allows and facilitates this journey. “I have seen many parents who have allowed the (very real and scary) fears of the ‘what-if’ hinder their ability to let go and give their child a chance at managing their own FA journey and there-by developing the skills and maturity that ultimately places them above other children in terms of responsibility and sense of accountability.”
The study also found that AYA with a greater support system from their peers, parents and teachers and those who had a 504 plan in place at their school ‘engage in fewer FA-related risk-taking behaviours than AYA who lack such supports.’ This outlines the importance of a child not feeling alone in their journey and knowing there is a strong safety system in place to fall back on in case the situation requires it. If a child feels safe their need to test the boundaries of their situation will disappear. Having a supportive environment among their peers and teacher is also important but can feel out of a parents control at times. Although you can’t force someone to be supportive and understanding of your child’s condition, experts say there are some steps you can take to facilitate this process. This includes open communication and a good relationship with the school board and teachers. When students witness their teachers attitude they will mirror it from a young age. For more information click here.
Psychologists Kathryn Evans and Khadj Rouf explain that growing up with the risks that accompanies a FA life inevitably brings along additional challenges that a child and their parents have to address with each developmental milestone. These include but are not limited to; learning how to manage their own medical kit, developing the confidence to be assertive about protective measures and asking about food preparations in public places. It is important that parents keep a close eye on their child’s emotional development as they navigate these extra responsibilities as it is not a static process and professional help may be needed at certain stages in a child’s life.
Although this study is important, more research is required into this largely under-examined area in the lives of Food Allergy children. Further investigation is required in order to fully assess how various factors affect the outcome of responsibility in the child. This information could provide a useful framework through which FA self-management and outcomes can be improved among AYA that could be implemented to help Doctors and parents develop an effective management plan for children as they guide them in navigating their Food Allergies and its challenges through life.