As my 5 year old daughter makes new social connections, she’s beginning to be more and more aware of how she is different from the other children when it comes to her food allergies. And while she often takes these differences in stride, she doesn’t like to feel singled out or “forced” to talk about them.
Today at a play area, another child asked her about her medical bracelet. She said, “I have food allergies.” Her new friend asked, “what are you allergic to?” to which she replied, “I’m allergic to a lot of things but I don’t want to talk about it” and then quickly changed the subject. They kept playing and had fun.
And I was proud. You see, about a month ago, my daughter told me she didn’t like how she felt the other kids were talking about her food allergies “too much” at preschool. She’d much rather talk about fun stuff, like animals and sports and coloring. And so I told her that it was her decision when to talk about it – and empowered her to set some boundaries, letting her know it’s OK to not get into a big conversation every time someone asks.
It’s a common question – people often ask her what she’s allergic to… and the answer is long: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, shellfish and all melons. It’s a mouthful alright – and usually it’s followed by some statement of either shock or sympathy – neither one of which defines or celebrates her life. I totally understand why she doesn’t want to go there every darn time someone asks.
Of course she knows there are times we need to talk about food allergies, such as with doctors, teachers and other adults taking care of her. And it’s good for our friends to know we have food allergies so they can help us stay safe. But there’s a time and a place for everything, and knowing she has a choice in the matter makes all the difference between her food allergies defining her, versus her defining their role in her life. She is more than just her food allergies. So, so much more.
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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