As parents, when we learn that our child has one or more food allergies, it causes some concern.
We need to change things in our way of life like reading package labels, cooking homemade food, providing explanations at restaurants, at friends, at school and many more. All of this takes a lot of time. By seeking information and support from associations and groups, developing a positive attitude and continuing to enjoy life such as playing and going on family outings, this will promote the child's well-being and of the whole family.
It should be remembered that a child or adolescent with food allergies is no different than one without food allergies. Everyone is unique and what matters is to be accepted with this particularity.
From a young age, it is essential that the child develops a strength that will allow him to be good at something, to belong to a small group of friends. The fact of having a group to belong to, of not being apart, of being good at something, of feeling privilegedwill bring as little difference as possible and will make it possible to have something like the others. To do this, the child has every advantage in attending settings such as early childhood centers (CPE), preschools or playing a sport that he or she likes. From there, he will learn to negotiate with other children and with adults from an early age.
… and confidence
It is important to let the child express himself so that he learns to assert himself. While setting boundaries, empower them so they feel trusted. As soon as possible and while accompanying him, let him explain his allergy to the people he frequents. Play scenarios with him to get him to express his feelings, to inform him, to facilitate his understanding and to make him aware of certain things. Eg: “If someone gives you candy, what are you going to do? » Allow him to know his condition by being educational and not alarmist. Do not tell him that he can die if he eats an allergenic food. It is best to tell him that he will be very sick or that he will have to go to the hospital, taking into account his age and understanding.
Getting it ready for school
Before entering school, he must be able to say “NO” when offered food. He must understand that he can eat the food authorized by his parents in order to protect himself. Show him that there is always an alternative, by modifying or replacing what is prohibited. Ex.: "Daphne is allergic to peanuts. She is invited to her friend Florence's party. She can't eat cake at the party, because even though it's peanut-free, it says on the package it may contain peanuts. So Daphne's mom bakes her one of her favorite cakes to bring to the party. Luckily she had brought more than one portion, because her friends thought it was so beautiful that she had to give it to them. »
Once the child is old enough (9-10 years old), it is best to let him carry his epipen. We don't give him a choice, but we can make him choose the bag to put it away. This way, he won't feel that everything is imposed on him and he will know that he can make choices in a safe environment.
The way we act has a great influence on our child. It is essential that we adopt a positive attitude by being assertive, informative, respectful, flexible, resourceful and involved in the life of our child. By this example, he will be better equipped to deal with those who want to marginalize him or disrespect him. If our attitude is negative and aggressive, it will be harmful and the child may suffer.
It often happens that the child is eager to learn to read so that he can read the labels on the packaging himself. If he comes to that, he saw you do it. Even if the child does not know how to read and we are used to reading the labels aloud, it will create a habit in him. When it will beready, you can encourage him in this direction, guide him and support him. This will help him to take his responsibilities, to have self-confidence and he will be very valued for it.
Show him he's not alone
When the child attends school and even before, it is good to introduce him to people around him who are experiencing the same problem and thus show him that he is not alone with this particularity. Around the age of 7-8 years, we can begin to encourage him to come forward to mention his allergies to officials who do not know him, such as a substitute teacher. Ex.: “Hello, my name is Cédric Dubé. I am allergic to peanuts. My protocol and my epipen are in such a place. »
Imagination at the service of children
Children with imagination do much better. The imagination, as in many situations, often comes to the rescue of children. We must, at home and in class, allow them to eat fake foods that are not allowed, we must allow them to transform a piece of melon into a banana that they cannot eat, or allow them to pretend to be a squirrel that eat peanuts, or pretend to eat Nutella by eating mashed prunes. Through play, children solve many things. In addition, sport, for many, helps to transform aggressiveness.
Self-esteem is another aspect of personality that should not be overlooked. Children with good self-esteem will bealways more inclined to protect themselves and not to accept foods that could endanger their lives. Above all, don't be afraid to tell them that they can learn to protect themselves, that they are good. This will increase their self-esteem accordingly.
In the meantime, we agree that adolescence is a period that we must prepare for as parents, well before it arrives. This will ensure that the child who will have grown up will be able to face his difference. By following these few tips, we help prepare them for this.