Eight years ago I was a father of four kids, none of whom had any food allergies… Today I have eight kids, two of whom have food allergies…
I know both sides and I think it gives me an interesting outlook. I know what non-food allergy parents think about food allergies (previous life) and I know what it’s like to be a food allergy parent and have a pit in my stomach 24×7 (current life). I’d love to go back in time and have a chat with my old self about how dangerous and prevalent food allergies are!
Understanding both perspectives, here are some top tips for getting friends and family on board with your child’s food allergies…
Never hesitate to speak up and never apologize.
You are your child’s advocate. Your child has a disease. Don’t ever feel anxious or embarrassed about keeping her safe. Your child isn’t a picky eater…the food she is allergic to can kill her. Apologizing is for when you’ve done something wrong, which clearly you and your child haven’t (on the flip side, it’s a breath of fresh air when someone demonstrates empathy and a willingness to listen and help. That person should be thanked…profusely).
Don’t ever put yourself (or your child) in a situation where you are left feeling “if only I spoke up”.
Inform (but don’t lecture)
Most people just don’t understand what food allergies are all about. They’re not trying to be uncooperative or difficult; they just don’t know.
Chances are you didn’t know anyone with a food allergy when you were a child…and they didn’t either.
Friends and family want to be helpful; they just need to understand the severity of food allergies.
Facts. Your friends and family need to make a commitment to cooperate because food allergies are a growing problem and your child’s allergies are more than likely never going away. Here are a few you can share:
The food allergy epidemic is only getting worse every year.
- The number of Americans with food allergies has more than doubled in the last eight years.
- Two kids in every classroom have a food allergy and soon it will be three.
- Only a small percentage of children outgrow their food allergies.
- How important this is to you. Speak from the heart. Let your words come from a place of love of towards your child, not of anger and frustration to those you are speaking to. When people see how much this means to you they will go along.
- The danger of food allergies. For many children with food allergies, the tiniest amount of allergen can be deadly. Food allergies are not a joke. To most people, that jar of peanut butter is a delicious food. In my eyes it’s poison and it can KILL.
Prep (but don’t intimidate) them.
Every child is different. This is where some of the confusion comes in, if they have had experience with a child or adult with a different type, or a less severe, allergy. Your friends and family need to know the details of your specific child’s food allergies.
- What exactly is he/she allergic to?
- What are your rules? What steps must be taken to keep her out of harm’s way (reading labels, avoiding/sanitizing questionable spaces, etc.)?
- What are signs that she is having a reaction?
- What is your emergency action plan?
- If you are not around your friends and family must be ready to respond appropriately if there is an emergency. But at the same time don’t scare them away…you need to find that perfect balance of just enough information so that your child is safe, but not so much information that they are too scared or overwhelmed.
What Do You Think?
Have any of these tips worked for you? What other advice can you offer to help get friends and family on board with a child’s food allergies?
Bio: Avram Weissman is a blogger at AllerDad.com, food allergy parent, and creative force behind the AllerGuarder, a wearable technology device designed to help prevent food allergy reactions. He lives with his wife and 8 children in New York.