Raising a child with a serious food allergy isn’t easy, but there are a few things parents can do in the early years to make life less stressful. We are looking at 3 easy ways on how parents can help their kids with food allergies.
Imagine being a child who grows up with a fear of food. A child who dreads cupcake day at school, who is too scared to eat alone, and who has to watch her friends enjoy treats while he sits on the sidelines. For children with life-threatening food allergies, anxiety and uncertainty are a part of everyday life.
Parents Need to Deal With Their Own Anxiety in Order to Help Their Kids With Food Allergies
The diagnosis of a serious food allergy is life changing for everyone in the child’s family. For parents, particularly mothers, there is often guilt about what they may have done to contribute to the allergy developing. If a child has peanut allergy, for example, they may blame themselves for eating peanut butter during pregnancy. Reassurance from medical professionals often does little to allay these feelings. Very little is known about food allergies and what causes them, which leave the door open for parents to draw their own conclusions.
Parents often feel overwhelmed in the early days of their child’s diagnosis. Food can no longer be taken for granted, ingredient labels must be scrutinized, food choices are limited, and finding babysitters or child care becomes arduous. As the reality of raising a child with serious food allergy sets in, so do fears of what the future will bring. What challenges the child will face, what they’ll they miss out on, what risks must be managed. Talking to a counsellor or therapist is very important when parental anxiety becomes overwhelming and can help when educating the child about their allergies.
How Parents Can Teach Younger Children About Food Allergies
Many children are diagnosed with a serious food allergy when they are babies. As a result, they grow up not knowing a life without food allergies. How they are educated about their food allergies in these early years is likely to be reflected in the way they deal with them in the future. During this time parents have almost total control over what their child eats, which can lessen anxiety levels for everyone. It’s helpful to read food allergy books to the child from a very early age to reinforce that many children have food allergies and to introduce the concept of food avoidance.
During these early years, children need to learn that while they can’t eat some foods, there are many things that they can eat. The less emphasis that is placed on the negative, the better. As with anything at this age, not being to have something they want often results in tantrums and tears. There may be frustration at seeing another child eating something they’d like to try. At these times, parents need to resist the urge to indulge the child because they feel sorry for the child. Instead they need to remain calm and explain that while the child can’t eat that particular food, she can eat something else that she enjoys. Dealt with in a calm manner, the child will more readily accept her food allergy and its limitations in the future.
How Parents Can Reduce the Stress of Starting School With Food Allergies
The independence that comes with starting school can be daunting for both parents and children with serious food allergies. For parents, a large part of the child’s environment is suddenly not within their control. They must rely on teachers to manage their child’s allergy and upon the school to protect and respond to the child’s food needs.
Choosing a school that is experienced in dealing with food allergies can alleviate anxiety in some cases; however, when the school isn’t allergy aware, responsibility for ensuring appropriate measures are put in place can fall on the parent. This is understandably stressful and requires plenty of time and planning. Many food allergy organizations have resources to help parents and kids adjust to starting school.
Some kids deal with their food allergies anxiety more effectively than others, and parents play a key role in helping them develop coping mechanisms. Hoping these tips mentioned above will help ease anxiety with food allergies.
Allergies are so difficult for the family. I appreciate that you spoke about the challenges on mothers. I remember when my child was ‘gassy/fussy’ when I was nursing him. I didn’t know if was what I was eating that was affecting him or what the problem was. This is a great summary of the issue and great thoughts about how to help.
Thanks so much for your kind words!
Good tips! We are pretty lucky, no one in the family has serious food allergies (just some items that cause a minor rash)… But I am very anti-GMO and Preservatives.
Great post, I can not imagine how parents cope when their children have food allergies, it must be very stressful when the child is young and at school or camp.
fabulous post. Before the Christmas break I was trying to explain to my oldest..who is autistic, why she couldnt take a peanut butter sandwich to school but she didnt quite understand
Thank you for your kind words!