Tag Archives: Parent

How Both of my Parents Contributed to Me Being Safe and Normal Growing Up with Food Allergies

Thanks to my parents, I didn’t feel much different from others despite growing up with a food allergy. I had to take on more of a responsibility and be more cautious than others, but I was lucky enough to live a safe and normal childhood with the support and guidance of my mom and dad. Here is a list of ways both of my parents contributed to me feeling safe and normal growing up with food allergies.

  1. They educated themselves, me and those around me:

My parents educated themselves through support groups such as TAEG (Toronto Anaphylaxis Education Group) to get the information and knowledge they needed to make sure I was living safely despite the dangers of my allergy. After educating themselves through their attendance at informational meetings on allergies, they passed on their new knowledge and taught me how to be responsible, cautious, and vocal about my allergies. I was very lucky to have such an amazing support system. Not only did they educate me, but they also made sure to educate those around me including my friends, my teachers, and my extended family. My allergies made me feel special in a positive way rather than in a negative way. My family and friends set safe food aside for me and always took the time to make sure I never felt left out.

  1. Safety at school:

My mother was extremely involved at my elementary school through volunteering and participating in council meetings. She helped plan events like school fairs to make sure they were allergy safe and inclusive of all allergic students and family members. She also helped organize hot lunches that were allergy safe. In addition, my mom always volunteered to be a parent organizer and supervisor on my school trips to ensure I could attend and be safe on trips to the zoo and museums, and so I wouldn’t miss out on the fun opportunity with classmates.

  1. Safety at birthday parties:

My mom attended all birthday parties that I was invited to. She would talk to the parents to see where they got the pizza, snacks, and cake. She was there to read all ingredients and to make sure I would be safe while having fun and enjoying time with my friends or family. If I couldn’t have the cake at a birthday party, my mom was always prepared and one step ahead as she always had a safe snack packed for me to enjoy at cake time.

  1. Safety at restaurants:

Growing up my parents communicated my allergies for me. At restaurants, they showed me how to communicate my allergies to the wait staff, manager, and chef. They also taught me how to look through the menu to find the safest option. When I was older, they handed the task over to me and made sure I could practice explaining my allergies with the comfort of knowing they were there to help if needed.

Despite having food allergies, I felt like a normal kid while growing up. My parents enrolled me in numerous extra-curricular activities and allowed me to go on overnight trips without them. They helped me learn how to not allow my allergies to hold me back from doing anything or going anywhere, to communicate my allergies, and to live life to the fullest despite having food allergies. Thanks mom and dad!

– Michelle D.

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Capes, Tights, and Cowls: My Food Allergy Role Model

She doesn’t wear a cape, she doesn’t have a super power, my food allergy hero doesn’t even have a food allergy. Instead, she has logged countless hours of prep work, baking numerous birthday cakes for kids in classrooms she didn’t know, weekly loaves of bread, and so many cookies you could fill Lake Ontario with them. No, my allergy hero never had to use an auto-injector, but she carried one every day, went to yearly training, and taught others in schools and businesses. She was never at-risk for anaphylaxis but still to this day refuses to eat or keep peanuts or tree nuts in the house. She doesn’t need allergy testing, but she’s never missed an appointment in the past 20 some odd years. My hero then, now, and forever will be my mother, Sharon.

img_0623A woman who, without a second thought, dropped everything, switched gears, and transformed her and our family’s lives (and cupboards) when I was diagnosed allergies to peanuts and tree nuts at age three. She hasn’t looked back since.

Growing up with the risk for anaphylaxis was tough on me, but it started as an unimaginable journey for my mother. Suddenly the grocery store was a nightmare. No food seemed safe and if we didn’t know each and every ingredient of a product, forget about it. No restaurant seemed feasible anymore since we didn’t know what was going on in the kitchen. It looked like we as a family were lost, but not my mom. She took charge and decided that if nothing was safe, she would make it safe. And just like that our house was filled with baked goods, safe meals, and treats that I could reach for anytime and feel safe. To me, it was perfectly normal, I thought every kid had all these homemade foods in their home. I never saw my mother in the kitchen ‘till one in the morning cooking, baking, and worrying. I also assumed most kids had the choice of going home for lunch and that I was just lucky enough that my mom would come pick me up, and let me watch cartoons at home, then drop me back off at school. It never occurred to me that I had to go home because once the lunch boxes came out, our classroom was seen as a dangerous place to my mother.

My childhood for all I knew was normal, I never knew or realized the time, effort, and work my parents put into everyday to make me feel like a normal everyday kid or the tears she shed over the fears she had for me and my childhood. I never knew how special our situation was because she took the brunt of it upon herself and shielded me like a hero from the things that could hurt me, both physically and emotionally. To me it was the best childhood I could ask for, shrouded in a wonderful haze filled with memories of baking, specials meals just for me, and most importantly, love.

It is these reasons, and so many more that my mom is my food allergy hero. She’s brave, and kind, and was willing to give up everything for me so that I could be a normal, happy kid. Most people ask if I would ever give up my food allergies if I had the opportunity, and I always say no. First, they made me who I am today, and second they filled my childhood with so many wonderful, unique memories between me and my mom that I wouldn’t give any of it up for anything.

My food allergy hero may not need tights (unless she’s dressing up) and a cape, but she gives me inspiration every single day to live better, be kinder, and make the smallest differences in people’s lives because in the end, it’s the little things that matter.

-Arianne K

Parenting a Child with Allergies

 

5-6 years old boy with his parents isolated on white

Parenting Goal:

The goal should always be to have your child become independent in managing their allergies. Of course, when they are younger, they will need more guidance in how this can be done. This is where modeling appropriate behaviour for your child comes in handy (e.g. reading ingredients, carrying auto-injector, etc.).

Tip #1- Be Assertive, not anxious

It is important that you teach your child how to speak up in a confident and polite manner. Encouraging children to speak up for themselves is crucial; they should be comfortable discussing ingredients, the location of their auto-injector, and any symptoms they may experience. Have them start speaking up in familiar settings for practice. In the future, this will help them advocate for their needs in novel situations.

Although the threat of an anaphylactic reaction is a scary thing, try not to use ‘scare’ tactics with your child. Scaring them could lead to anxiety concerns with your child. This applies to caregivers as well! Try your best to remain calm and in control (even in potential emergency situations). Your child should understand the risks of having allergies, but feel confident and capable of managing the risks rather than frightened and overwhelmed.

Tip #2 Foster Independence

We all know the cliché saying, “live and learn.” Yes, we learn through life experiences (even the negative ones). If given a choice, I’m sure that any loving caregiver would choose to have their child avoid unpleasant or stressful situations. However, being overprotective, or a ‘helicopter’ parent doesn’t necessarily help children—especially those with allergies. As stated previously, the ultimate goal is to have your child become independent in managing their allergy. This means that you can slowly have your child assume certain responsibilities when you feel they are ready.  An example of this would be carrying an auto-injector. As an infant/toddler/preschooler this task would most likely be the responsibility of a parent. However, as school year age approaches, parents have to consider alternative arrangements for this. Remember, there is no real ‘correct’ answer about when a child should start to carry their auto-injector independently. You know your child the best so factor in their personality, maturity level, and age. Some tips for having your child remember and carry their auto-injector themselves:

– Have your child choose a safe, secure spot to keep it (e.g. fanny pack, purse, backpack).

– Help them develop a strategy to remind them to bring it (e.g. post-it note on the front door).

– Give them oral reminders. Remember, you don’t want them to become reliant. Like the old expression says: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Meaning of course, you are better off to teach your child how to manage their allergies than to just manage their allergies for them. The key is for them to develop routines that will promote life-long risk-management and effective problem-solving skills.

I would highly recommend checking out the following links for more info!

Managing Anxiety and Feeling in Control
http://www.allergysupportcentre.ca/managing-anxiety.html

Emotional Impact

Emotional Impact

Emotional Health for Parents of Children with Food Allergies
Emotional Health for Parents of Children with Food Allergies

Emotional and Social Issues
http://www.foodallergy.org/emotional-and-social-issues

Nicole K.