I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.
In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.
I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.
Some say it's not fair to expect other people to cater to these kids's needs, but when it's a question of life or death, "fairness" takes a back seat. Living in a community should mean caring about the people in it. That's why we create ramps for people in wheelchairs, why we have family restrooms, why we make accommodations for people with developmental delays. Making accommodations for someone who has a life-threatening allergy should be a no brainer.
In a viral Facebook post, mom Melissa Griffin shared a photo of her third grade son who had been hospitalized after having an anaphylactic response to eating a green bean.
It's that time of year again, when parents begin planning classroom parties and events. It's highly likely you will receive a note from school that certain allergens must be avoided in your child's lunches and/or class party menus.
Your initial reaction might be one of irritation and eye-rolling. I totally get it; what a hassle! However, regardless of how you feel on the inside, please remember you have a CHOICE in how you respond out loud in front of your kids. Your words matter and this is an incredible opportunity to teach your kids some invaluable life lessons.
I've listed some practical alternative responses and the lessons they'll help teach:
1. Education - "Do you know what food allergies are? Did you know kids can get incredibly sick or even die with a single bite? Sometimes it can even happen from touching it."
2. Compassion and empathy - "How do you think Susie might feel in a cafeteria full of potentially dangerous foods? (Scared, anxious) How do you think you would feel at the class party if you were the only one who couldn't eat the yummy dessert everyone else was eating? (Sad, left out, embarrassed)
3. Inclusion - "Joey's Mom gave us a list of safe snacks for the party, which one should we pick? Isn't it great that he gets to participate? Having him at the party is way more important than the food, huh?"
4. Sacrificing your own comfort for a friend - "You get to have cookies or cupcakes any time you want. I'm proud of you for going without them this one time. How did it feel to see how happy Sally was?"
5. Healthier relationship with food - "The holidays are about friends and fun. The focus shouldn't be on the food anyway, right?"
6. Gratitude for their own health: "You know, we're really blessed that we can eat whatever we want and always feel safe at mealtime. Aren't you thankful for that?"
Don't miss these lessons by choosing to grumble about not getting to pack PB&J sandwiches or not being allowed to bring cupcakes.
EVERY child has the right to be safe and protected at school. It's scary releasing our food-allergic kiddos into the public school classroom.
On behalf of all parents of food-allergic children, thank you for choosing empathy and inclusion this school year and leading your kids to show the same! ALL of our kids are better off for it.
I've seen people complain about not being able to send the food their child likes to school with them. I've seen people say that peanut butter (or fill-in-the-blank allergen) is one of the only things their child will eat, therefore it's unfair to ask them to not eat it. I've seen people say that kids with allergies have to look out or themselves and that it's not their responsibility to keep someone else's child safe.
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If you were standing near a roadway, and saw a child starting to run out in front of a car, would you not do everything in your power to stop them? Or would you not bother because it's not your responsibility? In my opinion, making sure the children around us don't accidentally die is just part of living in a civilized society.
In short, don't be a jerk about people's food allergies. Yes, it maybe inconvenient, but inconvenience is a small price to pay to help keep a child safe.