Dec
03

Avery loves participating in her “sports class” at the community center, learning about animals (especially dinosaurs and raptors) and going to movies.

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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12 Responses to “how can a child learn responsibility for food allergies?”

 
  1. Sarah says:

    Joe turns 5 this month too – difficult for me to believe we are there already! One of the main things we have done to prepare him to handle his peanut allergy is to have food discussions in front of him. We try to make “Does this have nuts in it?” seem like a normal thing he just needs to think about each time.

    Rebecca was diagnosed with a tree nut allergy over the summer and I’ve been really impressed with how conscious she is about it reading labels and asking questions.

    Can you share the brand of your epi pen belt? I’ve seen adult belts but haven’t seen a kid sized one yet.

  2. Kristine J. says:

    The question of “Does this have peanuts in it?” comes out of Parker’s mouth more than ours. He knows that if anybody that’s not myself or David asks him or offers him anything he is supposed to politely decline or ask mom and dad if it’s ok. If it’s someone like grandma or grandpa that asks him he knows to ask the question and can have it if they say no. Thankfully, they’re all very aware of his allergy and buy specific treats for when he is there.

  3. Heidi says:

    Thank you for this post! My daughter turns 3 tomorrow and I need to think about how to begin preparing her for the responsibility of managing her allergies as she is getting older. Although she is already really good at asking, “Will this make me sick?” when she sees new foods. 🙂 I also appreciated your point about setting the example of how to act…I need to remind myself of this as I often feel it is easier to just stay home…but that isn’t fair to Brooklyn and I don’t want her feeling limited or scared either!

    • Missy says:

      I LOVE the name Brooklyn! I’ll be honest, my viewpoint about this at age 3 was very different than now at age 5. Thinking of her starting school soon has really made me want to try to help her be more independent (even though she still needs to rely on me and other adults to watch over her). Thanks for reading this and the comment!

  4. Sureyya says:

    Thank you for sharing!
    My daughter is 8 and she has been very mature and responsible about her allergies. But we have not given her similar responsibilities yet. We talked about it, I sometimes ask her to prepare herself snacks. But we have not made it regular enough. You made ne realize that we should get that going on a regular basis and help her take charge. She will need those skils even more when she gets a bit older. And I know she is perfectly capable.
    Has anyone tried the epi-puppy? I was thinking about getting her that.

    • Missy says:

      Thanks for the note Sureyya! I just saw the epi-puppy posted on facebook last week and ended up ordering it. My daughter LOVES puppies and will probably love it. The only thing I’m worried about is that I think she will probably rather want to use it as a toy than a medicine holder. I’ll have to see if she’s mature enough to respect it as a medicine holder rather than a toy.

  5. Homa says:

    My daughter won’t even go into her classroom if they are still clearing away breakfast (I take her after they eat breakfast and pick her up before they set up lunch). I want her to be safe and aware but I worry that she is getting upset to boot. So I am still learning the right approach. She also gets really scared of dogs (another allergy) and I blame myself for her overreaction whenever she sees one because I put so much effort into making her wary of her allergens. Sounds like you are doing a great job adjusting your approach with your little girl’s development. My daughter just turned 4 so I am right behind you on this road!

    • Missy says:

      Homa – I feel you. We don’t want them to be too afraid. One time Avery got hives on a hand after a friends dog licked her. It was because the dog food had food in it she was allergic to – eggs & milk. This child LOVES dogs and now she’s worried to pet them and terrified of them licking her. It’s hard to make sense of it all when you are only four. I wonder if your daughter views breakfast as Dangerous just to be in the room with. I wonder if you could work to help her ease into it by being in a different part of the room with her and maybe it would help her watch the teachers clean the tables, etc.

  6. Wendy says:

    My son is 11 with milk, egg, peanut, and tree nut allergies. He brings his lunch to school 170 times a year. This year, he’s in charge of packing his lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, because he has to learn to skill of preparing his own food, and maintaining a balanced diet. We’ve had a chart in the pantry for years that lists ideas foods he likes in different categories (grains, proteins, fruits, veggies, etc.). This helps structure his decisions and eliminates the “What can I eat?” question. I hang out in the kitchen with him while he does it to supervise and to occasionally be entertained as he narrates a “how to pack your lunch cooking show” with a great commercial voice. 🙂

    • Missy says:

      Love this Wendy! My 7 year old now gets to help make his lunch some days, but I never thought of giving either child the entire responsibility of it. I’m still pacing with them on age-appropriate activities and haven’t hit that one yet. However, I love hearing that you do this because it helps me think through what next steps could be. Also, Avery does join me in cooking quite a bit and shows a lot of interest in it. I hope this means she’ll be great at cooking/preparing food for herself as a teenager/adult. 🙂

 

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