Alicia Woodward: Hi! I am Alicia Woodward, Editor of Living Without, the world's leading magazine for people with food allergies and sensitivities. Today I would like to talk about how parents can help their children with the emotional aspects of having food allergies. Books and music make great tools. A good story, whether it's told in words or music, has the power to heal. Find books about others who have food allergies so that kids know they are not alone, and also to learn how to respond safely to different situations.
Use role models; find a hero for your child, someone who has experienced adversity and overcome it. Introducing youngsters to others with life challenges puts the allergy in proper perspective. Try role playing, practice real life scenario so that your child knows what to say and how to behave in challenging circumstances. Use a pretend kitchen, restaurant, or classroom to instruct about food and how to talk with others about safe choices. Giving children age appropriate information about their medical condition and teaching them language to navigate their circumstances brings a sense of control and helps alleviate anxiety. Practice positive creativity. Develop fun alternatives to forbidden foods. Come up with delicious substitutions of favorite foods before attending a birthday party or a school gathering. Find safe outlets. Help your child blow off steam; outdoor play, drawing pictures, reading, even a punching bag, are ways to cope with feelings. Sharing stories about your own feelings when you were young can encourage your child to open up about his feelings. Finally, encourage friendships. Nourish supportive friendship for your child. Often just one good friend is enough. Peer relationships become more critical as children age and parents have less control. Joining a local support group can provide enormous emotional benefits. Children can befriend those with similar conditions, share their stories and feelings, and know that they are not alone. If anxiety or depression are significantly impairing your child's life, consider getting professional support. Don't allow food allergies to define your child. Observe your child's strengths, promote his skills and talents, encourage him to participate, and help him to excel in activities that he enjoys.