Healthy conversations and stress-free language help to build awareness and positive food allergy management
My son is only four and a half but we have realised for some time that he has a level of awareness about his food allergies. Whilst we have not “sat him down” and had an explicit conversation with him about it, the language we have used around him, to him and to other people in his presence has had an impact. So much so, that I got a phone call from his Kindy teacher “double checking” that he was in fact allowed to have ice-cream (dairy). The kids are involved in making food at school and they had been making ice-cream. It’s only been in the last 6 months that he has been able to eat it and so he told the teacher “I can’t have milk”.
When we have spoken about the food allergies it has been helpful to:
- Be positive and talk positively about the foods he CAN eat
- Talk about the ingredients in foods when buying and preparing meals (so they know what’s in certain food and develop their understanding that some foods have the allergen but you can’t see it. A cake has dairy and egg for example.
- Educate your child about checking with you first when offered food (especially from other children)
- Answer questions factually for example “Why can’t I have that?” Our responses have been:
- You can’t have that because it’s got (allergen) in it
- I am not sure if (allergen) is in it. So we will have something else instead
- There isn’t a label, so I can’t check what’s in it
- Let’s ask who made the (food) what ingredients are in it
These types of statements help to build capacity in your child, as one day they will need to take ownership of managing allergies themselves.