When you have a child diagnosed with a severe food allergy it can be extremely challenging to help them feel comfortable and safe in social situations. While living with food allergies may always present challenges there are a few things you can do as a parent to help your child manage their fears and anxieties.
First and foremost…you must try and remain as calm as you can, while still watching out for them. When you get very worked up and anxious in front of your child, they feel this and it passes on to them. Teach them to be cautious and what to watch out for, but try to do this in a calm manner, without trying to scare them.
Be honest about the dangers, but remind them that you have the tools to keep them safe and that life threatening anaphylaxis is rare. Be mindful of your emotions and work to validate your fears as a parent, while at the same time remembering that your child will grow up and live life, with or without food allergies, and teaching them how to face life with confidence is very valuable. Validate your child’s fears and then help them look at the facts of the situation.
Remind them that everyone in life has challenges, they are just all different. You may want to help educate your child about other people’s suffering and maybe sponsor a child in need or help your child make a donation to a child with cancer, or come up with other ways that your child can contribute to the community. This also helps normalize their difficulties, rather than focusing on being ”different.”
You may also help them identify what they have to be thankful for and help them turn their minds to these things in difficult moments instead of focusing on what they are missing out on.
There are many other ways to help your child cope with food allergies, which I will continue to touch on. However, one last thing I want to say is modeling is one of the best skills. Model taking good care of yourself, physically and emotionally, and this will naturally rub off on your child! I welcome any thoughts and questions on this post.
Author Information: Jennifer Leeson, Denver, CO
Jennifer is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and an expert on changing negative emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. After being diagnosed with Celiac Disease last October, she learned there was more to transforming her life around food beyond knowing what to eat and what not to eat. There were unexpected social, emotional, and behavioral challenges that arose. Since learning how to cope with these obstacles herself, she has begun teaching others how to cope effectively with the barriers that interfere with successfully changing one’s entire lifestyle around food. You can reach Jennifer at her e-mail address.