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8 Things That Food Allergy Parents Want From You
In honor of Food Allergy & Asthma Awareness Week, I’ve invited Brooke to post today sharing her thoughts as a parent of a little daughter with severe food allergies. Feeding Beck is hard enough – I can’t imagine also having to consider allergies. Thank you to Brooke for sharing her tips on how to be considerate to parents of children with food allergies.
I’ve had moms sit beside me in music group saying how sorry they are about my daughter’s food allergies, then pull out a granola bar with nuts and let their child crawl around with it, trailing nut-filled crumbs behind. Their heart really is in their words, and they are thoughtful – they just can’t have the thoughts of an Allergy Parent. So, forgive me for grabbing at my first opportunity, but with Food Allergy & Asthma Awareness Week at hand, I’d love to share with other parents the 8 things that Food Allergy parents want from you.
Keep it Cool
There is already a good deal of stress surrounding allergy situations. Help us out by being our “keepin’ it cool” friend. When other people are positive & willing to help with allergies, that good attitude spreads!
There may be times when we have to come to you with a request, such as bringing soy-free snacks to playtime. This is as awkward for us as it is for you. But most likely, if we are coming to you, we have tried everything within our own power and need a little help. When I come to another parent with questions or concerns, I certainly don’t expect them to change everything to accommodate my child. I love when parents are straight with me – “Yes, we’re serving ice cream at Johnny’s birthday party.” I want her to carry on as usual, but then I can decide if it is worth the risk for us.
If the extra effort that it takes to maintain a friendship with an allergy family seems like an annoyance sometimes, just imagine what their typical day is like! You may have to take an extra ten minutes to find a soy-free snack for your child to take along, but imagine that ten minutes stretched out over an entire day – every day. Also, think of how the little one must feel on Easter if she is allergic to eggs, when all the kids run to the ice-cream truck but he is allergic to dairy, or when her class is going to the circus but she can’t join in because they serve peanuts and folks leave the shells everywhere.
Make an Offer
Nothing makes me feel more valued by a friend as when they offer something special for my food-allergic little one. Offer to use Wow-butter in your child’s lunchbox instead of peanut butter. (Honestly, your child won’t even know the difference!) Offer to let your child have juice instead of milk when they are playing together. Offer to let them choose the restaurant! If the food-allergy family can actually eat out at all – their choices are so, very limited. There is only one thing at one restaurant in my whole town that my child can eat – and I determined this after an hour-long chat with the manager about which foods touch which skillets, and so on.
Let the Parent Take the Lead
There have been so many times that well-meaning parents have told me what I should do to cure my child. “Just loosen up. Let them have it every once in a while and they’ll toughen up.” But that’s not medically the way it works. Anaphylaxis is not a matter of toughness. Coddling your child does not cause food allergies. I would venture to say that food-allergic kids have to toughen up because of their allergy. We are treating our child the best way we can, and in the way our doctors suggested, so trust us that we are not being overbearing or indulgent in our decisions.
Lend Your Eyes
When there are several kids playing, especially toddlers, who have an affinity for sticking everything in their mouths, protecting your child gets overwhelming. When other parents warn me that little Mary has just spilled yogurt melts near my girl, it is a great help. Having another set of eyes looking out for your child is a great comfort.
Don’t be afraid to ask. I love when other parents ask how they can help or even ask about food allergies in general.
And never give a food allergic child any food without asking. Food allergy parents have become adept at reading labels. Companies are required by law to list the presence of the top 8 allergens – peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish – but these sometimes masquerade by different (and often unpronounceable) names. Helpful lists of confusing ingredient names can be found on FARE’s website.
Personally I will simply never relish in having to boss others around about what foods they can and can’t have around my child. That’s why any show of grace goes a long way. For the parents of kids with food allergies, think about it – do you have time to do research on conditions that don’t affect your own child? No busy parent does. I have found that a gentle word goes a long way in negotiating compromises. And for all the other parents – please show us patience. We don’t mean to be cranky, but we stayed up all night making gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free chocolate chip cookies and we are tired.
all images of Evie’s 1st birthday by W&E Photographie