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Readers Respond: How Have You Taught Your Children About Food Allergies?

Responses: 3

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Updated March 27, 2009

As kids get older and more independent it's important that they take more control over their food allergies. How have you taught your child to manage their allergies? If a parenting strategy has worked to help your child avoid potential allergens, recognize reactions, navigate tricky social situations, or cope with the ups and downs of life with allergies, share it with fellow parents here.

Baby steps

The day we learned about our 2 y/o daughter's allergies, the nurse taught her to say, "I'm allergic to nuts." We have taught her to say that phrase whenever someone offers her an unfamiliar food (with a polite "no thank you" tacked on). We play the what-would-you-do-if game in the car before we go to gatherings. At the grocery store, I explain & demonstrate label reading. She has learned to remind me to read labels & pretends to read labels herself. She has become very curious about checkout candy & will ask me if certain candies have nuts. I use this opportunity to explain cross contamination to her, so she learns about risky foods and manufacturing processes. We look at bags of nuts at the store & look at pictures of nuts whenever we see them so she will be able to recognize nuts when she enounters them. She knows to tell her dad or me if she sees nuts sitting out at someone's house. We hope to give her building blocks to become confident in protecting herself when we are not around.
—Guest Kelly

Practice, Practice, Practice

When my son was younger, I tried to turn as much of it into a game as possible, singing songs about foods in the grocery store, flashcards, having picnics to practice eating out of his lunchbox, etc. Now that he's in Kindergarten, I try to practice scenarios without it becoming too much of a drill. I frequently ask "What would you do if?" We talk about how to handle being offered food, and also about never allowing other kids to dare him or put anything in his mouth. To be honest, I worry less about something straightforward like using an EpiPen and more about difficult social situations.
—Guest Libby

Emphasize Independence

Our son is severely allergic to dairy, eggs, tree nuts, soy, and sesame seeds. We've enrolled him in a small, private school where the teachers know our son very well. We emphasize independence so he has his own snack during "fruit cafe" and he feels comfortable saying no to other kids' offers to share. This works for now, but we do fear the situation will get worse as he gets older. We may not be able to afford the private school much longer, and what we've heard about public school in New York state is not encouraging. At the same time the pressure to try new things will only increase, and his memories of the consequences will fade. He's only 5 right now, and hopefully he'll start to grow out of some of these allergies, but we do fear for the teen years. All we can do is raise our son to think for himself, and trust he'll make the right decisions when the time comes.
—lantern
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