Today we continue on our Teaching our Kids to be Food Allergy Advocates series. We’ve heard from:
Cindy at Vegetarian Mamma shared about teaching kids to eat safe foods.
Kathy at Food Allergy Jams shared a Food Allergy Game for preschoolers.
Today Sarah from Don’t Feed My Monkeys will give us an inside peek into the life of families with food allergies. She talks about what it is like for her family, with not so little kids, and Saying No.
Sarah is a busy wife and mom of 4, two of her kids have food allergies. I met Sarah last year at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference and we hit it off right away. Be sure to follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and of course Don’t Feed My Monkeys.
I have four kids, the two oldest have food allergies. My 10 year old son is allergic to milk, eggs, and peanuts. He also avoids gluten, soy, and artificial colors. My 8 year old daughter is allergic to peanuts.
As my kids are getting older, I am finding that they are taking on more independence with their food allergies. I am trying to keep them in my safe food bubble where I provide all of their food, check all the labels, educate all the adults they are around. But I also have to teach them to navigate the world safely on their own. This is the bridge we are currently crossing.
I still control their food, and I still educate parents and teachers on food allergies (avoiding a reaction and what to do if a reaction occurs), but I know they are learning to fend for themselves. They are beginning to hang out with friends more, going from one house to another. These houses are not food allergy havens. There is peanut butter there. Goldfish crackers. M & M’s. Cheetos. Cookies. My kids know to say no to these temptations. I’m sure it’s hard as they watch their friends indulge in these treats, and I do my best in making up for it at home (usually after the fact…..they first have to watch other kids eat). But this is their reality. I try to be prepared if I know food will be present, but as all you food allergy parents know, things pop up without warning. We just do the best we can.
Kids bring cupcakes to school. They trade food at the lunch table. They go out for ice cream or pizza on a whim with their parents. I still keep a stash of safe treats at school for my kids to have when others bring birthday treats, and I show up to every class party with safe treats for my kiddos. I try to make lunches fun and delicious so they never feel left out. But they still have to say no. When others are making a game of trading lunch food or stuffing their face with frosting-covered cupcakes, my kids say no. They are responsible about it. They get it. And for the most part, their friends understand. My kids have been lucky enough not to be bullied about their food allergies this far. But they still have to watch everyone else indulge.
I’m always curious how my kids really feel about their food allergies. What truly goes through their heads. They have said that they wish they didn’t have food allergies (cue my tears and breaking heart), but I always try to remain positive about it around them. They know they can’t have most treats that others are enjoying and that they have to stay safe. I’ve explained what anaphylaxis is and what to do in an emergency. They understand epi responsibility–take it with you everywhere, don’t leave it in the car. They’ve even injected oranges with expired EpiPens. We are working on independence with managing these sorts of things as I work on letting go of the control of the food bubble. Passing the food torch, so to speak.
So, for now, my kids say no. They are responsible enough to turn down food, even when they don’t want to. But I’m dreading those rebellious teenage years when they want to test the waters to see what really happens when they have just one little bite of that something that looks so delicious. All I can do at this point is teach them to be responsible and help them understand why saying no is so important.
Don’t forget to enter my Plentils Giveaway to win 4 bags of food allergy-friendly Plentils.