It’s no surprise to hear that having a child with one or more food allergies is stressful for parents. If you have a child with a food allergy, you know first-hand the kind of stress and the burden that it puts on you. But, if you are just discovering that your child is allergic, you may not know yet what to expect. It may help to know how a diagnosis will affect you, your family and your lifestyle and stress levels. It also helps to know how you can combat the negative aspects and learn to live with food allergies without letting them take over your life.
What Stresses Food Allergy Parents the Most
A survey of parents with one or more children living with food allergies found some surprises in what does and does not worry them. For example, most parents do not spend a lot of time worrying about their child having an atypical upbringing or not recovering from an allergic reaction. They do not worry much about being able to help their child in the event of a reaction or about their child eating near their peers.
What really places a burden on parents with food allergies, according to the survey, is all the ways in which living with an allergy makes life more complicated and challenging. Parents get stressed out about preparing meals, going to group activities like play dates or school, preparing to go out with their child, and leaving their child in the care of someone else. A child’s symptoms, like irritability or sleeplessness, also place a burden on these parents.
Another aspect of living with food allergies that parents report finding stressful is the skeptical parent. Other parents who doubt the seriousness of a child’s allergy or who give parents a hard time for being so cautious can really be stressful for the parent who knows that her child’s allergic reaction could be life-threatening. This may happen in school with parents complaining about a peanut-free policy because of one child’s allergy. Skeptical parents don’t get just how important it is for that one child to not be exposed to peanuts.
What Parents Are Really Worrying About
The survey results and anecdotal reports from parents show just what it is that burdens most parents of food allergic children. That most parents aren’t too worried about the outcomes of reactions or their ability to treat a reaction shows that they feel prepared and as if they are doing things right to prevent a tragic outcome from an allergic reaction. If you are new to food allergies, empower yourself by learning all about reactions and be prepared with the knowledge and medications you need to treat them.
The results also demonstrate that what really places a burden on parents is the inconvenience of planning special meals, preparing for school or other outings, and putting trust in other adults. To combat this kind of stress, you need support. If you have a spouse or partner, you should share the duties when it comes to keeping your child safe. If you don’t, rely on other adults you can trust, like family members, to help whenever they can.
Finally, there is the feeling of being isolated as a parent of a child with food allergies that causes stress. When other parents don’t understand your child’s needs or are skeptical, it feels like you are fighting a battle alone. Get school staff on your side to advocate for you and your child when other parents complain. Get involved at school if you have the time so you can be there to answer parents’ questions and concerns.
Perhaps most important for your well-being and to reduce your stress, you need to remember to take care of yourself. Parents have a tendency to put themselves last, especially when their children have special needs. Your child needs your care, but you also need to take breaks to make sure you are healthy and well enough to provide that care.