While researching an article I was writing for Today’s Parent Magazine, I decided to survey parents across Canada to gain a better understanding of how raising children with food allergies impacts anxiety levels. More than 200 parents from across Canada responded, and I found myself touched by so many of their words.
I’m not kidding when I say that if I could have quoted every single one of them in the article, I would have. Unfortunately, both the word count and the angle of the piece stopped me from doing so.
As I read through each of their accounts, I was struck by how all of the experiences were unique, but how they all still resonated with me in some way.
Since May is both Food Allergy Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, I decided to share a small collection with 2 goals in mind: (1) to let other allergy parents who are experiencing anxiety know they are not alone, and (2) to give those not living with food allergies a glimpse into the challenges, the heartache, the false hope, the loneliness, the fear and, of course, ALL THE LOVE that goes into parenting a child with life-threatening allergies to everyday food.
“Being on edge all the time is physically and mentally exhausting. I love my son and wouldn’t ever change him, but this is one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my life.” – Amber K.
“I think that there are different angles to the anxiety. There is the anxiety related to the risk and the possibility of a reaction and there is also social anxiety. You are constantly having to navigate the line between keeping your kids safe and being socially accepted. There are many awkward situations where you feel impolite having to ask so many questions, or where you might have to speak up in an uncomfortable way. This causes a lot of social anxiety.” – Sarah M.
“We always need to be prepared and aware – almost ‘on guard.’ It is not easy, and we’ve accepted it, but I wish others not living with it would realize we were once the same as them and were able to live a little more carefree; we didn’t ask for these allergies, and are trying to enjoy a regular life with them present. It could have just as easily been their child who is allergic.” – Lindsay L.
“Initially, in the early years, we avoided many social events that could not be made food-safe for our daughter – awareness wasn’t good 20 years ago – now she lives away from home, goes to university and works part time in the restaurant industry.” – Laura B.
“My 11-month old daughter has confirmed allergies to eggs and dairy and a possible allergy to soy. Since finding this out, we have cancelled our plan for daycare (at a home daycare) because we were very worried about possible contact with allergens. My parents will be temporarily relocating from NB to Ontario to care for my daughter for a few months and I will take time off until she turns 18 months, in hopes that a spot in a childcare centre will open by then.” – Renee R
“I have found that my anxiety is greatly reduced when family, friends and teachers CARE! It is much more relaxing when you know others are just as vigilant and careful and want to help create a safe environment. Anxiety is at its highest when others are not willing to learn how they can be helpful, or when they are annoyed by the accommodations they are asked to make. Trust is a huge deal when it comes to allergies!” – Megan B.
“People don’t understand food allergies and relate it to ‘not liking’ a certain food. Early on my daughter had a reaction at a family gathering and it was then that my family realized how severe allergies, let alone anaphylaxis can be. It’s unfortunate that it takes an experience to understand.” – Doug M.
“I think it’s important to teach my kids to advocate for themselves because, as they grow older, they will find themselves in social situations without mom and dad to tell them what is and what is not safe.” – Pirita V.
“We very rarely eat out at restaurants because it’s just too stressful and not worth the risk. Family gatherings and birthday parties are very similar: lots of stress and worry and almost always a case of hives.” – Megan B.
Hey! Allergy Parents! Want to share your story and be featured in our new series, From the Mouth of an Allergy Mom (or Dad)? Reach out at allergybitesto (at) gmail (dot) com to let me know. And in the meantime, read our very first one one (and try not to tear up): The Day My World Turned Upside Down.
Friendly. Supportive. Encouraging.
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