Severe food allergies can easily overwhelm a child’s life if parents don’t take steps to find balance. Allowing a child to feel limited or defined by his or her allergy challenge will only build resentment and open this child to depression.
There are steps parents can take to guide their children away from allergy as a focal point.
When your child feels left out and feels bad, talk is essential. Listening is even more important. Quiet, accepting listening without interruption. Let your child feel validated and understood.
“Parents can also involve children in problem-solving how to handle social situations – for example, attending a birthday party or extracurricular event where food will be served – to help them feel more in control. Typically there are different options for how to handle a situation and having some say in the matter can help,” suggested Jennifer LeBovidge, Ph.D., a psychologist at Children's Hospital Boston.
Work with your child on a dialogue for answering common and not-so-common questions about his or her allergy. This will help your child feel prepared and comfortable.
Educate the people in your child’s life
School staff, relatives, and parents of your child's friends all need to know where the dangers lie and how they can help.
“While food allergy management is second nature to many families of children with food allergy, it is not so for most people. Providing education, not only about what food allergies are, but providing concrete examples of simple steps that people can take to include children with food allergies in social situations, can be extremely valuable,” Dr. LeBovidge explained.
Your child needs to be comfortable sharing any negative experience related to the allergy. Teasing or bullying is not acceptable, and your child needs to know how to stand up for him- or herself and that adults will support him or her.
“It's also important that parents remember — and remind others — that children are not defined by their food allergies,” explained Dr. LeBovidge. “Helping children identify their strengths and pursue their interests will increase their self-confidence overall.”