Pro tips on ‘must know’ food allergy facts for your village
Updated: May 11, 2022
When our son was diagnosed with food allergies in 2013, I remember feeling like I wanted to roll him in bubble wrap and never let him leave the house. We had zero knowledge or confidence about how to manage his diagnosis in daily living.
Today he plays on a few travel sports teams, rides his bike to friends’ houses and is gradually growing his independence as a 10-year-old. We do not panic each time he eats and he has a smart watch to call us with questions if he's stuck. He has found a few quick-serve restaurants that he likes and we are modeling for him how to disclaim his allergies when he orders. He's not comfortable ordering on his own yet but we can see that he'll get there in time.
He has tools, we have experience and we are open to collecting more tools to help us both navigate paths we haven't crossed yet. We are slowly growing, trusting the process and leaning on our safety protocols when needed.
Our goal in any activity is safe fun. Safe foods, safety knowledge and safety protocols are a given. So is fun, adventure and growing with new experiences. The combination of both? Amazing.
We have kids who actively participate in life. They are busy with school, sports, dance, music and spending time with their friends. They value their communities and we invest our time into this village.
We’ve found that amplifying the number of eyes and ears looking out for our children's well-being enhances the fun. I no longer see food allergies as the thorn that creates tension or awkwardness in an otherwise peaceful relationship. The fact is, it’s a part of their journey and our village cares about our kids. We reciprocate and care about their kids' well-being too. We all want safe fun for everyone involved. Simple as that.
We are not experts in food allergy management. Occasionally if life has us moving too fast, we still stumble or misread a label from time to time. We also bounce back quicker than the last mistake and learn new tools for the next time we encounter the same experience.
Reflecting backwards there were key anchors in our approach that proved successful. We continue to rinse and repeat these steps when our kids join new teams, start a new class, or have a playdate at a friend's house. The village expands as our kids express interest in new hobbies and so we must keep up.
Educating others about food allergies can feel like a huge task that you don’t have time for, especially on top of the rest of your busy life. Reframe this thinking as an investment that will have compounded payoffs.
By investing a little bit of time in teaching others, you are creating allies, advocates and raising awareness all at the same time.
Your energy and commitment here are worth it!
With the right communication approach, you can reduce your emotional attachment and turn into a teacher who presents the facts, the emergency plan and the resources to share your knowledge. Expect that you may have to often double check your facts as the body of knowledge continues to evolve. People will have varying levels of knowledge and it’s hard to know where to meet them initially in this journey.
You may not feel like an expert yet on food allergies, and neither do I. That’s okay because we know enough to educate others on safety…safe foods, signs of an allergic reaction and safety protocols.
Where does food show up in each gathering?
Are there obvious knowledge gaps or blindspots to be addressed?
Are these individuals in the group already supportive friends or strangers?
Can you see these people becoming trusted allies with the right education?
Our tendency to protect means we grip tighter to control, often pulling back in fierce protection mode. It’s easy to opt out of events, but life is meant to be experienced.
Here are a few tips that will help you share your ongoing education effectively:
1. Make a list of the people in your life that need food allergy education.
Where does food show up in organized activities or events? (school? work? sports teams? neighbors’ or friends' houses?). Start with these activities and then list the people out who are in charge. Prioritize who you educate first by thinking through which activities have the most access to food.