This is a guest post written by AllergyAbroad
Many children who suffer from food allergies go through their childhood and later, their teenage years, unable to be completely self-sufficient with their allergies. There are many reasons why this happens, but it stems from parents not knowing how best to teach ownership skills to their children. The good news is there are ways for parents to build confidence in their children so that they can manage their allergies without their parent’s supervision.
Always try to prepare them from an early age. The following section shows four essential methods on how to build confidence in your children so they can be self-sufficient from an early age.
1- Take ownership
Firstly, teach your child to take pride in who they are, and that includes their food allergy. There is no shame and embarrassment to be had, just emphasising the extra clarity needed when telling other people about their allergy. They will come across thousands of these conversations in their lifetime, but by giving them a headstart on this reframes how they see themselves from an early age. They are not the ones with a problem, they are now in position to educate other people when needed.
2- Honesty is the best policy
The second thing to remember is to always discuss this issue openly with your children and create a mutual respect when talking about allergies. They will want to ask questions and should use you as a sound board, creating a quick feedback loop. You will be surprised by how young an age a child can take charge of their lives; they deserve more credit than we give them. I would definitely recommend reading this NPR on children as young as 7 learning how to look after themselves.
3- Practice, practice practice
Teaching your child to advocate for themselves is key and it goes hand in hand with self confidence. Building confidence is no different to learning how to play the guitar: one string at a time. Parents should teach their kids how to ask questions about anything; there is no shame in that. Rather than feel like it’s a taboo of some sort, let your kids take pride when it comes to expressing their condition to others. You can then move to their allergy and use roleplay to practice different scenarios where your child can practice explaining their allergy.
Child Mind Institute has some great tips – If your child is fully confident in asking for a bottle of ketchup at a restaurant, then expressing their allergic condition shouldn’t be any different!
4- Step up
There is never any shame in objecting to something. Teaching your kids to say no from an early age broadens and strengthens their character. If your child doubts whatever it is they’re about to eat or drink, then they should know they always have the option to say no.
It’s also vital for a parent to teach their child that even adults can sometimes make mistakes. Your children must be comfortable in saying “no” in the case that an adult unknowingly said food is safe when it isn’t. Most kids are programmed to think that they should always listen to adults (teachers included). Still, when it comes to food allergies, children should be supported to make their own decisions when their parents are not around.
Confidence is an underpinning principle when it comes to allergies. By teaching your child how to own their allergy, you’re also empowering them in other areas of their life. I can’t think of a more fitting quote than that from Andrew Solomon to bear in mind when it comes to allergies; “The experience of diversity is more illuminating, more transformative, more powerful, and more important.”
This blog piece was contributed by AllergyAboard (find them here on Twitter). It was started on the belief that allergy translation does not need to be expensive or restricted to single phrases. The site started with 2 allergies and now has over 300 translations online available for free. Find the translation that’s right for you.