As a parent, sending your child anywhere without you can be scary. It is even frightening for parents with children who have allergies. Eliminate these fears by teaching your children to advocate for themselves!
Teach Your Child Exactly What Their Allergies Are
When it’s time for your child to go to their first playdate or birthday party without you, it can be extremely nerve-wracking. Every child with food allergies should be aware of what they can and cannot eat or be exposed to. Before sending your child anywhere without you, it is crucial that you sit them down and teach them what they are allergic to. It doesn’t have to be a serious lecture; you can make it into a fun game to help them memorize their allergies.
- Explain how certain foods will make them feel sick. Using simple terminology is best when explaining this concept. Use phrases such as “not safe” and “unsafe” to eat.
- Teach them what their allergen looks like! Involve your kids in daily activities, such as grocery shopping, by pointing out the allergens that are “unsafe” for your child to eat. There are a lot of online activities, coloring books available, and recipes that you both can complete to help your child recognize their food allergies.
- It is necessary to teach your child to accept foods from their parent or other trusted adults. It can be their grandparent or babysitter who knows about your child’s food allergies and is trusted.
- The most important step that your child needs to learn is how to find and alert an adult when they feel sick or need assistance. Teach them by explaining your emergency plan in case of an emergency or reaction, including taking medicine and visiting a doctor.
Some examples of fun memorization games include:
- Kahoot: create an interactive online quiz for your child
- Make colorful flashcards with images (you can even have your child help make them) and quiz your child
- Create a sorting game where your child has to place images of foods or pets in separate piles if they are allergic or not allergic
Involve Your Child!
There are many steps you take in order to provide your child/children with a safe environment free from their food allergies! Start including them in your process! As your child begins to grow up, they will start appreciating everything you do to keep them safe, and they should be involved in the steps to make this possible. The sooner they learn, the more possibilities they will have of taking care of themselves when the parents are not around. So start including them, which can also turn into a bonding experience. From learning how to prepare allergen-free foods to learning what to look for in a food label, involving your child is essential in creating these habits. Here are ways how you can involve your child:
- Use “we” rather than “I” statements when reading a food label, or refilling medications, etc. “We should read the ingredients before we buy this to make sure it will not make you sick.”
- Start announcing your process out loud to start building habits, such as “Do we have our scenario kits or emergency kits before we leave?” This will reinforce not leaving anywhere without your medication.
- Finding friends that also have a food allergy emphasizes that they are not alone! Join our Facebook Community Group for parents thinking about joining or currently on the waitlist for the Tolerance Induction Program (TIP™), an individualized program that treats children’s food allergies. Read more about TIP™ here.
Tell Other Parents of Your Child’s Allergies
Even if you are confident in your child’s ability to inform others of their allergies, you should still notify the parents of your child’s friends. Whether it’s a playdate or a birthday party, contact the host parents and explain to them what your child can and cannot be exposed to. If your child has a pet allergy, it is necessary that other parents who may have pets are aware so that they can vacuum the pet hair and keep the pet separate from anywhere your child will be in their home. Other parents are almost always happy to accommodate a child’s needs when it comes to allergies. If not, host your child’s friends at your own home, so you know your child is in a safe environment.
It’s Better Safe Than Sorry!
It can be difficult for both you and your child when they have to become their own advocate. If you aren’t confident in your child’s ability to advocate for themselves or if your child is anxious, it’s normal! You can send your child with their meal and/or dessert so that both you and your child can feel more at ease. It’s upsetting for a child not to eat what all of their friends are eating, and they may not fully understand why. Find out what the host is serving so that you can match what everyone else will be eating with an allergy-free option and your child won’t feel left out. Read our blog on tips on eating at a friend’s house.
Fear comes with both having food allergies and being a parent. That fear will never be gone, but some of it can be managed more effectively if you start involving your child in your process.