Parents often use fear tactics to teach their children important life lessons. “Don’t go with strangers – they could take you away and you’d never see me again!”
While effective, these tactics can create fear-driven children who are afraid of new experiences and distrustful of the world.
Fear might work, but there are consequences
The same can be said for instilling fear of food allergies. Yes, it would likely work, but that could also make your child feel like a ticking time bomb ready to blow at the next accidental sighting of the allergen. Fear of food, one of life’s necessities, is not a good way to go.
Don’t let your child feel like a burden
There are alternatives which work. According to Linda Marienhoff Coss, author of several books on raising children with severe food allergies, it all starts with the attitude of the parents.
While a child must know he or she has a health risk related to particular foods, he or she doesn’t need to feel like a burden because of it. Keep special accommodations low-key but important and consistent.
Don’t let the allergy define your child. He or she has all kinds of beautiful attributes – spend more time on those than on the allergy. Compliment your child’s smarts when he or she looks for and avoids the allergens.
Create a safe place, free of allergens and judgment
Create a safe haven in the home. Don’t bring anything into the house which could trigger an allergic reaction. Make sure other parents know when they bring their kids over for playdates that your house is a safe zone.
Underscore the importance of the allergy, but keep it between parents. This will make it possible for your child to have a completely normal experience without constant questions or worry about what is where. A safe haven also means safe from judgments and teasing.
Help your child grow confident, not fearful
Every child is different. Your child’s “different” just requires a little extra attention and some community awareness. Make sure your child knows this. As he or she grows, your child will be confident and compassionate.