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Throw away the cape- don’t be Supermom- just be human

This article was written based on professional guidance of Judy Bar Eitan, MSc who has been treating children and families in a clinical and therapeutic setting for over a decade. Additionally, for the past 31/2 years, through her role in EMA Care, she has worked directly with families who are experiencing challenges with Anaphylaxis. Read more about her here

coping after an anaphylactic reaction

Mothers are notoriously hard on themselves- the ‘Supermom’ phenomenon which was coined in the 1980s following the movement of women entering the workforce, only served to add to the pressure already placed on their shoulders. This is even more prevalent amongst mothers of children with chronic medical issues. The constant internal battle between their desire to completely control their child’s surroundings in order to ensure their safety and the realism that this isn’t possible weighs down on their psyche throughout their daily lives. Additionally, there is a wide range of emotions whirling around- which, without the proper coping skills and philosophy could continue to fester and breed.

Bestselling child psychologist and psychotherapist, Dr Haim Ginott says, “If we give our child 100 chances we have to give ourselves 101 more chances.” The more challenging the situation is- the more thought one has to give into their parenting strategies, the more chances one has to give themselves as parents. Chances to realise that we are just human and we can make mistakes. Chances to take those mistakes and learn from them. To re-strategise and figure out a plan to try and ensure it won’t happen again. But most importantly- chances to realise what is under our control and when we just have to let go.

During an anaphylactic reaction

Commonly mothers display a wide range of emotions following an anaphylactic reaction of their child. If the parent is around during the reaction- they will go into saviour mode, completely focused on saving their child, providing appropriate emergency medical care and ensuring the recovery is complete. During these situations, the body fills with adrenaline- where the body increases blood flow and oxygen intake causing an energy increase as the body hits peak hormonal rush. Afterwards, the body takes a deep decline, the post-rush causes a drop in blood sugar, resulting in a draining, weak sensation that envelops the person. In addition, once the danger has passed there is time to feel all the emotions that had been suppressed during the emergency and which can all come flowing at once. These can include; relief (that the child is safe), fear (what if it happens again?), frustration (why is this my/my child’s life), anger (at themselves or child for not being careful enough) and despair (will I ever be able to ensure my child’s safe, will this ever get better.) Most importantly realise that you also have a choice in how to move forward.

After an anaphylactic reaction

The first step is to realise that all these emotions are normal and healthy- but don’t exaggerate them. Take the time to be aware of all your feelings and validate them to yourself, take a moment to cry it all out and then move on to an activity that will make yourself feel better- take a bath, or treat yourself in some other way. Keep in focus that you don’t have to be superwoman. Don’t allow yourself to dwell on thoughts such as, “Oh my Gosh- he could have died!!!” And certainly, don’t vocalise those thoughts in front of your child. 

The next step is to focus on the positive. Yes, a reaction happened- it was scary- terrifying, but your child is safe now so something must have gone right. Remember, your job as a mother is to do what you can to ensure the safety of your child, but also to put in place procedures that if something does go wrong- the people around can take the appropriate steps to make sure your child recovers. If the situation happened at your child’s school- focus on the fact that the teachers around realised what happened and took the appropriate steps- maybe your child realised something was wrong and asked for help- that’s an amazing achievement and an important safety measure. These procedures were in place because you put them there and the staff was educated as you ensured it was so.

The final step is to reflect back on the situation that happened-in a constructive way. Ask yourself why the reaction happened? Was there anything that could have been done to prevent it from occurring? Make it an educational moment- for yourself, the teacher or your child. When the child is between 2-8 years old the parent primarily blames themselves as they are responsible for maintaining their child’s condition - when dealing with a 10-21-year-old, the parent may have feelings of anger towards the child directly for not taking better care to ensure their safety. These emotions don’t help towards being constructive- they should be dealt with during step 1. Now is the time to learn from the past in a logical and level headed way.

Talking with your child after an anaphylactic reaction

When talking with your child:

  1. Explain that the condition they have is very serious- only use the words ‘life-threating’ for the older age group, and explain that they have to be responsible for their own care.
  2. Start your sentences with ‘I’. Don’t say, “You frightened me”, rather say “I was so frightened.”
  3. Be sure to validate any feelings you child might be having and work through them together.

Most importantly focus on the fact that you can’t be superwoman. It is impossible for you to have eyes and ears everywhere, all the time. You child has to have a chance to grow up normally and you deserve to have a normal life too. But above all don’t place unfair expectations on yourself. Realise that you are doing the best you can and that’s all you or your child can wish for.  

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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.

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