I remember being a tween and having a huge fight with my mom at a restaurant. I ordered a dessert, they knew about my nut allergy and confirmed it would be safe. What we didn’t mention was my banana allergy, since it was a cake. Lucky me, I was getting the last slice. Needless to say, when it came, it was garnished with banana.
What a total bummer, I rarely get dessert and was overjoyed, then the disappointment hit. My mom tried to diffuse the situation and was only being caring. In my eyes, she was making a big deal about the fact that there was banana on the cake which set me off. In the moment, I believed she felt sorry for me. I remember telling her to stop pitying me: it was furious and mean. My mom got up, gave us money to pay the bill, and left the restaurant. It sucked.
I was pissed that she kept on “making a fuss about the fact that I couldn’t eat something”. I wanted to scream STOP MAKING MY ALLERGIES SUCH A BIG DEAL. Looking back on it now my mom was just looking out for me, and it must have been super stressful to have a kid with such severe allergies. How frustrating it must have been to see excitement turn to disappointment in the blink of an eye and how that damn banana spoiled a perfect mom-daughter luncheon.
As a kid, you don’t realize the strain that your food allergies put on your parents. As parents, you may not understand that kids don’t want to be “special” for the wrong reasons. With this, I wanted to share some tips from my experience as an allergy kid.
3 Tips for Food Allergy Parents
1. Fear is counterproductive
Kids pick up on fear. You may not be aware that you are projecting your fear onto your allergy child and, as a result, are giving them a false sense of anxiety.
It is only natural to be worried about their allergies, but what you don’t want is to make them feel like life is better off in a bubble. Food allergies are manageable and should not be made to fear and control their lives.
2. Don’t micromanage
The worse thing you can do is micromanage your child’s allergies. What are they going to do when they get to school and university? Instead, empower your child. For example, let them start reading labels at an early age so they get used to learning what they can and can’t eat. Teach your kid how to cook for themselves, and how to plan ahead in case they may not have a safe food option.
I’m gonna drop in a cliché, but I honestly believe that this proverb applies to the way you should handle your kid’s food allergies: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
3. Let them find their voice
Let your kid be their biggest allergy advocate. Make it their responsibility to talk about their allergies to people. From talking to their friends to ordering at a restaurant, it is important for them to find their voice. Only chime in when it is necessary. I’m really serious about this, the last thing they need is a bunch of people talking for them!
You’ve got this food allergy parents!
What you can do as a food allergy parent is to provide your child with the keys to living a safe and fulfilling life. You can give them the knowledge and strength to be able to successfully navigate their allergies and to prepare them for the future. And remember that they are also dealing with their allergies in their own way. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they are doing, and how you can help them take ownership of their food allergies.
Kortney is your typical atopic triad! She manages asthma, eczema, environmental and food allergies. Kortney is a co-creator of the online community Allergy Travels and co-host of The Itch Podcast. She wants to spread joy in a community that can easily see the hard side of life with atopic disease and believes that you can have a full life with food allergies, it may just be lived a little differently!