29 Apr Reducing Food Allergy Anxiety
Raising a food allergic child has the potential to provoke a great deal of anxiety in any parent. Here are some pointers for helping both you and your child manage the stress of food allergies.
Start awareness at a young age
Your child is never too young to learn about their allergy. For young children, teach them what their allergic foods look like (eg. Photo/book) and stress that it must be avoided or it could make them very sick. The key is to keep it simple for young children. As children grow, they can take on more responsibilities for their allergies (eg. Carry their own epi pens). Another key is to keep it positive. Tell them they were born with something special and that everyone has to learn to manage something in their lives.
Recognize anxiety and help children manage it
Anxiety can manifest in children as a stomachache, headache, or separation anxiety. Allow your child to open up and discuss their concerns. The message you want to send is: “I know you’re scared and that’s okay. I’m here and I’m going to help you.” Listen and be empathetic.
Put the allergy into perspective
Recognize that many individuals live with food allergies and thrive. Take the focus off of what you can’t have and turn the focal point on to what you can enjoy. Take part in non-food related activities as much as possible and find ways to make your child feel included in situations where their allergy could stand out (eg. Birthday parties).
Talk to others and encourage your child to do the same
Whether it be a psychologist, friend, support group, or religious figure, having others to connect with can be helpful. Encourage your child to discuss their anxieties with you in an open, respectful way.
Be prepared for the ‘What If’s’
Sometimes it can be helpful to talk through what would happen if a child’s fear came true. How would you handle it? Be prepared and ensure that your child’s caregivers are also prepared.
Acknowledge that sometimes you can’t change the situation but you can change how you React to it
Finally-Take time for yourself
Find other stress-reducing activities: read a book, talk on the phone, get some exercise. Also, examine your other roles as a spouse, friend, or sibling. Taking the time for self-care will make you a better caregiver.