What is your food allergy parenting style? Some of us are pretty intense (myself included!!) taking a very watchful and hands-on approach to managing life with food allergies, while others are a little more laid-back. From the clients I work with, to the Facebook groups I participate in as a food allergy mom, I have seen it all from super conservative to extremely hands-off. There is no right answer, and while it may be hard to grasp the "other way" the reality is we all need to find an approach to safely manage food allergies that works for us, and for our families. And, this approach may ebb and flow depending on the season of food allergies you are in. For me, I will always be Type A, about everything, but as we have grown into our food allergies over the last decade I have adjusted my intensity (although some would laugh at that statement!).
Your approach has to work for you, and others may not understand the how or the why behind your actions, but as long as you are working to keep your child safe and help them move closer to being able to manage their own allergies you are on the right track!
How you do it may differ from how I do it, but here is my list of the key things we need to be teaching our food allergy kiddos so one day they will be able to successfully self-manage their food allergies. After you read my list, comment below if you have others you would add.
Simply stated- take it everywhere you go, keep it on you, and keep it temperature controlled. So many tragic food allergy stories start with the fact the the person did not have their epinephrine with them.
Make sure they know how to read a label, how their allergens may appear on the label- which may be different if you are managing a non-top 8 allergen, and any other names their allergen may appear as on labels, for example botanical names.
It's Not Just the Food
Highlight non-food risks and places where their allergens could be found, for example in personal care products or pet foods.
Be Your Own Advocate
Help them develop the skills they need to be able to advocate for themselves. Food allergy parents do a lot of the behind scenes work, but as they get older involve them in the meetings and conversations that you have so they can see how to structure a conversation about keeping it safe.
If you have food allergies there is some level of cooking you will need to do to keep it safe, so be sure your kiddo has some basic cooking skills in their back pocket. We don't need to raise gourmet cooks, but a few basic skills will go along way to boosting their confidence and making sure they can cook for themselves when you are no longer there to prepare all those safe meals. Check out my previous blog post with advice from Chef Laura Holland about getting your kids in the kitchen for some great ideas on inspiring your little chef.
Attitude is Everything
It has been proven time and time again that your attitude will shape your experience. While food allergies can be scary and limiting, help your kiddo find the joy in their situation and model positive behaviors while managing their food allergies. For example, approach conversations about keeping it safe with a collaborative mindset and make the best of situations even if it is not exactly how you would want it. If you missed my blog post a few weeks ago about food allergy silver linings give it a read and see if you can relate or get some additional perspective to shape your attitude about food allergies.
What else would you add to the list?
Learn more about me and my company, Thrive On Consulting, which provides food allergy coaching and training. You can also follow me on Facebook for tips to Thrive On with food allergies.
Check out #thriveonthursday - Every Thursday check out my Facebook page -I share a tip for thriving on with food allergies!