Sometimes it creeps up on you, for other parents- they start seeing the cracks but don’t quite know what they mean, and for a third (luckier!) group of parents- they have been warned to keep an eye out they know what to look for and implement strategies long before it develops into a real problem. It doesn’t matter which group you belong to. There is no guilt in the game (unless you count what we put on ourselves as parents -every day-!). What does matter are the steps you take next. We can’t control the past. We can, however, have a say in what we do with the future. Wishing you all the best for this part of your journey.
An estimation puts families with one child that has extra needs at 50% or over. This doesn’t just include registered special needs children, but those with children with sensory issues, ADHD, social issues, and of course- food allergies. Although it may seem that the wide range of issues ensures no common ground between families- every one of them shares a united and important challenge – supporting and ensuring an emotionally healthy upbringing of the non-allergic, non-special needs, non-anything child.
In all likelihood as an adult we don’t appreciate the jealously- the pain and the feelings of unfairness the ‘non’ child has- I mean, would anyone want a food-allergy, want to be taken out of school for therapy multiple times a week or want to be reliant on medication to assume normal function? Of course not! But what the child sees- is another sibling who gets extra attention, special time with Mum or Dad, goes to places alone with them, and takes up more of their time. What they don’t properly understand (they are just kids after all!)- is how, in reality, they are the lucky ones, and one day, when they’re all grown-up- they will most likely have an easier time at managing their own. Still, their sibling will carry their situation with them forever.
Children imitate the adults' behavior in their lives and as their parents- your actions, whether verbal or non-verbal, have a tremendous impact on them. If you display positive coping skills, a lack of fear of the situation, and a sense of control- your child will be reassured from that and do the same. Jenifer shares a personal story. “We went out to a family BBQ, and my 10yr old niece- the ‘non-allergic one, came running over in complete panic because she saw another family member with some chocolate she thought could be a problem for her (food-allergy) sister. My sister jumped up so fast we all did too and ran over to remind the adult to keep it away from her allergic child. While I thought it was great, my niece knew what could endanger her sibling (even though all the adults were well aware of the situation), it was the fear in my niece's eyes that made us all concerned. She definitely mirrored her mother’s panic and anxiety at managing a food allergy. When my sister returned to the table, she said, ‘my kids have so much anxiety over ----‘s food-allergies!’”
To be or not to be not, that’s the BIG question. There are 3 approaches you can choose when it comes to your non-allergic child. Should she be encouraged to be a protector for her sibling, maybe something more subtle like a helper- such as speaking up for them in a public setting when they are too shy or take on a big sister role- where safety is the topic of conversation, and, that’s it.
Some professionals advise parents to give the non-allergic child the role of guardian or protector. Making them part of the team to keep their sibling safe helps cement the feeling that they are important and have a special role. It also ensures that they don’t feel left out of the ‘special club,’ which is ‘Mum, Dad and the child with food allergies, and helps give them something positive to do, bringing the 2 siblings closer. Be careful with this approach, says Debra, as it may not be suitable for all children, and the protective sibling role could turn into too much stress for a young child.
Others recommend the Helper role when parents seek to instill importance in the non-allergic child for always being there to help their sibling. On the parent’s part, this includes keeping an eye out for any chances their non-allergic child takes on this role, making a note of it, and announcing it loudly in front of everyone how amazing their child is and how proud they are. “Every child wants their parents to be proud of them, and every parent wants their child in the better situation to help out their siblings who are not that fortunate- this approach combines those two intrinsic wants.” Say Mary- a mother of 2 of these children. This approach replaces fear and responsibility for empowerment.
The Big Sister role is one that professionals say most parents opt for. However, care should be taken that the non-allergic child doesn’t negatively or become jealous of their sibling with food allergies. In this situation, the non-allergic child remains another sibling in the family. Parents should pay attention to all their children and maybe spend some quality time with their children who don’t naturally take up the most attention. (see below) Think of ways to show your child that you are also setting aside time just for them- or consider enrolling them in after-school activities like ballet or art that will make them feel special. “My child kept on asking me to call her teacher, call her teacher, and I was like- why- everything’s fine, is there something wrong at school? Are you having any trouble? Finally, she said, “Cause you always speak to Sammy’s teacher!” Mary relates, “I realized that it wasn’t about making a phone call in as much as it was about my child needing to know that I cared about them as much as I did for my son with food allergies.”
“The first time my husband and I decided my daughter needed special time, we arranged a time to take her to the ice-cream store- (it wasn’t easy finding a time we could take her due to our crazy schedules) as luck would have it- my husband’s grandfather passed away the day before, and he couldn’t come with us- so we decided that I would take her. We drove up to the store, and my husband got out of the car to tell her that she would go out just with me and that, unfortunately, he couldn’t come. The way her face broke out into this massive smile, and she jumped up and down- made us realize just how much she needed this. I got all teary, and my husband and I shared a look. I thought we were observant parents, but apparently - this was a long time coming.”
Stacy’s personal experience isn’t unique to her. Luckily, they realized that their daughter's personal time was important and resolved to set aside a time once a month from then on. This can be especially important for a non-allergic sibling as it can be used as a chance for the child to eat in a place they couldn’t normally go to due to their sibling’s food allergies. Spending special time with the ‘non’ child is a great way to show them that they are also important and deserving of their parent’s attention and is worthwhile implementing, whether only one parent or both can participate.
Having a child with food allergies affects not just the child and their parents but also the family unit. Seek the help of a professional if you’re at a loss at what to do, ask people in your support group and most importantly, listen to your gut- no one knows your children as you do!
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.
We truly appreciate their efforts to take care of our son, and to provide us with a lovely vacation experience.
T.M., Chicago, USA
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!!!!
We have NEVER felt more comfortable, calm, and at ease than we did these past 10 days. Your warmth, professionalism, kindness, and care shown through in all that you did.
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!
It’s very difficult for us to trust people when it comes to our kids and allergies. You magically were able to take away ALL of our anxieties, and nervousness (and we don’t give that away so easily!!)
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!!!!
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.
L.R., NY, NY
Thank you for delivering our allergy free baked goods to our hotel. We just tasted the focaccia and it was delicious!
All the best,
S.C., New Jersey
We can't thank you enough for assembling this top-notch team of specialists to work with our daughter while she is in Israel.
T.G., Philadelphia, PA
"Food Allergy Concierge assisted us with a very helpful, detailed customized allergy card in Hebrew. The Allergy card was extremely helpful for multiple allergies and allowed us to eat safely in several eateries and hotels. Highly recommended.”
G.A. Illinois USA
My family ordered a week's worth of food from Food Allergy Concierge during the most recent lockdown. Having the food on hand, and knowing that it was safe for everyone in the family to eat, helped turn the lockdown into a stay-cation! We were still able to take a break from cooking and worrying, and we look forward to using FAC's services again in the future.
We are so lucky we found this company to help us while our son was traveling. They provided allergy-safe baked goods and delivered them to his hotel so he could have bread and pastries on his month-long Israel trip. It was very easy ordering and communicating his needs. I would definitely use the food allergy concierge again the next time he travels to Israel.