Often children who have food allergies feel they are missing out when they compare what food they are being given as opposed to their classmates. It’s extremely important that children are aware of the potential consequences of eating the wrong foods. Simply avoiding putting them into their lunch box isn’t enough. One trade with a classmate, and they may become very ill indeed. Prohibition has never been a good tool to use with children. Tell them they can’t have something, and it makes the temptation even more appealing. The tips that parents need to share with their children are those which make the difference between being over protective and demanding to showing the children your care and helping them to understand their allergy and those of other kids.
Getting the food for lunches together
A child who takes part in the preparation of foods has a better understanding of nutritional needs if a parent discusses these. It doesn’t have to be in lecture format. This alienates children. Let them know as you pack each item into their lunchbox what that food is good for in a fun way.
“This is so your hair grows long and pretty” or “this is to give you loads of energy for sports this afternoon” is far more encouraging than pep talks. A child can begin to see a pattern of what foods do what. Add to that the complication of allergy, and a child can easily become confused. This is where the preparation process starts. Show them labels, because often these hide a lot of secrets kids may not even have thought of. With an allergy to nuts, a child may think they can safely tuck into cakes and biscuits though grown ups know that isn’t always the case. Similarly, their pals may tuck into cereal bars which look great, but which may hide that ingredient which makes the child ill. The more informed a child is, the less likely they will be to swap with pals without being aware that there may just be a danger hiding within the food being offered.
Have a challenge when you go shopping, and get them to read the labels, but bear in mind that often the labels are very small. Carry a magnifying glass with you and make it an adventure that you and the child share so they can distinguish the threat to their health.
The best thing a parent can do to make those back to school meals interesting is to find out what their children like. If a child has allergies, they may be aware of foods they consider as treats. Use these as indicators of the kinds of foods you can safely introduce into their lunch box and which they will like. Taking them shopping serves two purposes. Be alert and look at the things they seem to be attracted to. Look out for foods which can be used as alternatives, because herein lies the secret to providing them with food they will eat without danger.
Make them aware of other kids’ allergies
There will be any number of children in the school with their own allergies. To prevent your child from swapping food with his friends, tell him about the dangers of allergies. Sometimes reading a story book about this helps. The Peanut Pickle is all about nut allergies and is suitable for children from 4 to 8 years old. Written by Jessica Ureel, a mother who is very aware of the danger and who has a child with a peanut allergy, the book shows a child that their illness is something that affects others and doesn’t just single them out as different. Similarly, the book The Allergic Cow explains to small children about dairy allergies which may affect either them or their siblings or classmates. The point is that not only do children need to be aware of their own allergy. They also need to care enough about the other kids in their classroom, and not make fun of allergies which may be embarrassing for their schoolmates.
Encourage open dialog
Encourage a child to talk about their allergy with teachers if they are worried about something. Often it’s a good idea that anyone who will deal with the child or have the child in their care is informed. A responsible parent will tell the school, babysitter or anyone caring for the child about the allergy, though the child should also be encouraged to be open about it. That reminds the people caring for the child so that mistakes do not happen.
Protection for the child
One of the fun ways you can introduce the idea of openness about the allergy is by the introduction of a safety bracelet for the child. These are supplied by a company who have children in mind, and there are little slots where counters can be placed to show what allergies the child has. Whether the allergy is to wheat, eggs, dairy or whatever food, the bracelet clearly indicates the allergy. The child may find these fun, colorful and a treat. There are also Tee shirts available which show clearly what allergy the child has or alternatively stitch-on badges to help make them aware and others around them aware of potential dangers.
Once a child understands what allergies do to them, they will want to avoid the foods, though it’s never as straightforward as simply telling them what they can and cannot eat. They need to understand the significance, and also where these allergens may be located, especially if they are in hidden ingredients. Making the whole allergy question an everyday normal activity for the child rather than using cautioning the child has better results, because their level of understanding is improved. Using these ideas, parents can make learning about food, allergies and alternatives much more enjoyable for the child at a level that they are able to understand.