Avery turns five years old this month. FIVE. She’s super smart and eager to grow up. She keeps me on my toes, that’s for sure.
We’ve been living with her diagnosis of severe food allergies for four years now. For the most part, I’ve been doing everything to protect her and keep her safe these past few years.
Lately she’s been giving me signs she’s ready to start sharing some of the responsibility of managing her food allergies. Here are a few things we’ve been doing lately:
1. Reading ingredient labels together. She can’t read yet, but I’ve started reading the labels out loud with her – it helps her be a part of the process. And she’s started to remind me to read labels if she doesn’t see me do it each time.
2. Wearing a medication belt. Up until now I’ve asked her to carry her own backpack with the medicine kit inside. Last month I bought her a child’s epi-pen belt. Now before we leave the house I give her the choice of carrying the backpack, or wearing the belt. She knows that only an adult can open it or use the epi pen, but we keep it with us all the time to have just in case. She’ll likely be wearing an epi-pen belt full time in Kindergarten, so I’m trying to help her warm up to it now.
3. Packing snacks. I never leave the house without at least 2 snacks for her, and a really super-special one if other kids will be getting treats. Today I asked Avery to pick out a few of her own snacks and pack them. She didn’t flinch. It’s just like getting dressed herself or brushing her teeth – it’s a part of getting ready for the day and it’s normal for her to be a part of those preparations.
4. Letting go, a little bit. Typically, in the car on the way to an event, I preview where we’re going, what food allergens or risks might be present, and remind her not to touch or eat any food. Lately she’s been groaning or acting frustrated when we have these conversations. And last week, she specifically told me to stop telling her each time. That she already knows the rules. And I realized that she’s totally right. She doesn’t need a reminder each time she leaves the house anymore. She knows what to do and what not to do, quoting the rules and things she’s learned from me and her food allergy books – and at least so far, she’s followed the rules and been very responsible. So the next time we went someplace, I didn’t say anything. I purposely bit my tongue. And she did great. And the next time, and the next time.
The fact is that there is food everywhere we go. There are (limited) risks in our house, and risks outside of our house. There are things I need to do to keep her safe, and things she can start doing herself to feel ownership and responsibility.
The truth is my anxiety over food allergies is sometimes paralyzing. Many times the easy answer is to stay home and not go anywhere that might present a risk to her life. And yet what message does that teach my daughter? Do I want her to grow up feeling limited, anxious and afraid of life because of her food allergies? No. I need to set the example for her. And I need to give her the safety tools and emotional freedom to have fun and enjoy events without me talking about it being dangerous or about her being different all the time.
Of course she can manage herself better at five years old than she could at four or three or two. Of course she can begin sharing some of the responsibilities for her food allergies – in age appropriate way, with me always watching and making sure she’s staying safe. 🙂
If you are a parent of a child with food allergies, what are some things you have done to help your child learn to manage their food allergies?
You can find more of my food allergy posts, tips & recipes on my Food Allergy page. I’d also love to connect with you on my Marketing Mama facebook page and twitter. This post, and all posts on this blog, are written from my experiences as a parent of a child with food allergies. I am not a medical expert and encourage you to consult with a doctor on your personal medical situation.
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