Many people think they have the best mom in the world but I really do. She is extremely empathetic and selfless and without her love, encouragement and friendship I wouldn’t be the healthy, independent, driven woman that I am today. She taught me that anything is possible and never made me feel different because of my food allergies or Celiac diagnosis. In fact, I didn’t have a clue about all the behind-the-scenes work she did to keep me safe until my adult years.
I cringe at a lot of things that parents of allergic children are doing today to single their kids out from their peers so I thought it would be great to have my mom provide tips on how she (and my dad) raised me to successfully handle my diet challenges.
Top 6 Tips from Nancy–the Food Allergy Champion
Kids just want to be like everyone else and no one wants to be “that” kid. These tips will help you equip and empower your allergic/Celiac child so that he or she can be safe and enjoy life to the fullest.
- Nurture Self-Esteem. High self-esteem not only empowers your child to better deal with anything life brings them but equips him or her with the confidence to effectively manage their health care needs. For instance, in high school much to Megan’s dislike, we made her order allergy and asthma prescription medications herself. While we took some grief for it, she admits today that it prepared her to handle her medications independently in college and beyond.
- Teach your child to be a detective. Show him/her how to read labels to scope out obvious allergens and feel comfortable asking questions when eating away from home to make sure that foods are safe —like what kind of oil are the fries prepared in?
- Get involved. Make connections at daycare and school so you know your child’s teachers, friends and their parents. Establishing connections in the early years can help you decide later which slumber party is safe. One of my friends, who’s a nurse and her husband, an ER doctor, recently reminded me that she was honored to be on the list of approved “sleepover houses” years ago. Volunteering in the classroom is a great way to pay back the teacher who is helping to keep your child safe.
- Be prepared. Have a stock pile of safe snacks in the car, at relatives’ houses and at school (for birthday treats, Halloween etc.) Offer to bring the snack for soccer and school, more often than not, so you know your child will be able to eat what is offered. Even as the parent of an adult with food allergies and Celiac, I keep a shelf-stable meal in my car in case she’s stuck with no meal options when we’re together.
- Make cooking fun. Learn to eat healthy and avoid packaged foods. Spend time as a family cooking together and share recipes with friends and family so they can prepare them too.
- Build a caregiver team. Make sure that anyone that your child comes in contact with knows how and when to use an Epi-Pen. By learning as much as you can about allergies or Celiac disease you can share information and create an awareness that will help your child stay safe.