College is about to start and many parents are turning to online groups for advice on how to mauver this next major milestone in their child’s life. Interestingly the most pressing issues parents seem to be grappling with is food preparation- how to navigate and organise a years’ worth of meals for their child miles away from where they live, with limited cooking facilities and workspace.
Food Allergy Concierge spoke to Judy Bar Eitan MSc on what steps parents should take to prepare their child for college and tips on how they should approach this change in general.
Our job as parents is to prepare our children for the next stage in their lives. This rule applies to every child and every circumstance. In the same way, we might prepare children with varying personalities differently, we aid a child with allergies differently than one without- but the goal remains the same- arming them the skills they need to cope and handle the next stage of their lives. As they get older- this means stepping back a little, giving them more independence and allowing them to have more space to make and own their own decisions and choices. Consider their training in all things food-related part of their natural upbringing. According to Judy, this question is about 15 years too late. (but don’t freak out yet- see part 2 for guidance to handling the situation if you’re stuck today!!!)
When it comes to a child with allergies, children from as young as 3 can be taught not to eat anything from a stranger without checking if it’s safe for their allergies first. From ages 10-11 they can start reading their own labels, be trained to ask the right questions, be assertive and have the capabilities to self-advocate. Give them a voice when they are younger and you have given them a gift for life. By age 14 your child should start having a hand in the kitchen, preparing simple age-appropriate meals for themselves. This will give them a chance not only to learn about regular kitchen safety but allergy-related safety techniques as well- such as cross-contamination, ensuring a clean and allergy-safe work environment.
Obviously, no stage should be like throwing your child in the deep end- take this journey together with your child and watch them grow in front of your eyes. For example; when starting on the path of teaching them how to advocate for themselves- help them prepare the question they need to ask at a restaurant before they start speaking, you can go with them when they speak to the server or chef and help them articulate what their needs are or even help them go back again if something isn’t clear or good enough.
By the time your child has to spread their wings and go off to college they should be confident in managing themselves in public places, such as eateries and restaurants, know how to shop on their own, and how to cook and prepare meals for themselves. There will still be other areas you child will need assistance with-(which cooking utensils to buy, how to store them safely or what they are going to be cooking in) - all beginnings are challenging, and every child needs a hand with such a momentous adjustment, but the hard part will over- you can relax knowing your child can take care of themselves- something not to take lightly and which you can be very proud of yourself for accomplishing.
***See Part 2 for guidance in sending your child away to college with little to no time to prepare them***
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