Guidance in life often comes not from receiving answers but from asking pertinent, penetrating questions.

For instance, parents might wonder when to give their food-allergic child more responsibility for managing their allergy. There are no pat answers since every child is different, and parents know that making wise choices is not easy – even for well-disciplined adults.

Asking the Right Questions

Daryl Minch, M.Ed., educator and father of a food-allergic child, shares questions parents can ask to gauge a child’s readiness for increased responsibility.

The more questions you can answer with a “yes,” the readier your child is to assume increased responsibility for allergy management.

  1. How well does my child comprehend the severity of their allergy?
  2. Does my child know the foods and ingredients that might cause a reaction, including unusual or alternative names for the allergen(s)?
  3. Is my child able to read food labels accurately?
  4. Will my child read food labels?
  5. Will my child question others about food preparation and ingredients, or are they too embarrassed or timid to ask?
  6. Can my child say “no” to peers who coax them to join in and eat something?
  7. Is my child able to list the symptoms of an allergic reaction?
  8. Can my child take or administer emergency medication when necessary?
  9. Is my child likely to carry their medication or auto-injector with them always?
  10. Does my child know how or where to get help when needed?

Unfortunately, even if you answer “yes” to most or all these questions, granting increased responsibility is far from easy.

The Imperfect Art of Letting Go

Parents must teach children the skills necessary to manage their health conditions, though much of what children learn comes from watching and emulating parents or caregivers. If parents are diligent and proactive about managing the food allergy, it will rub off on the child.

Yet some children are naturally more diligent than others. Children can be outspoken, shy or somewhere between. Some kids are excellent and careful readers, and others never will be. Where one child never forgets things such as carrying an auto-injector, another may rarely remember.

So parents are stuck doing what parents have always had to do. You teach your children well, watch for signs that they are ready and willing to do more on their own and, at some point, you let go and grant them more responsibility.

Then, as with parents everywhere, you experience a lifelong combination of pride and worry.

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