If you or your child has food allergies, getting together with friends and family for the holidays can be very scary. Often times, families do not understand the serious implications of food allergies. With so many people choosing diets as a preference as opposed to true allergies, sometimes your needs and restrictions aren’t taken seriously.
Prior to meal planning, it is important that you communicate allergies to everyone that will be supplying food as well as additional rules around those allergies.
If your family does not take food allergies seriously, it is important that you educate them. Your child’s safety is your number one priority, and it can be extremely frustrating when people don’t understand. This makes it even more important that you do not respond angrily to family members that do not take it seriously; instead, educate them about the allergy and what can happen.
They should first know that it is an actual physical medical condition. Although that may sound like a no-brainer, for some it could make them listen more carefully and be more apt to follow the food rules you need in place to stay safe. The number of people that have food allergies has increased by more than fifty percent in the past twenty years, and approximately 6 million of those that suffer are children under the age of 18.
Talk to your relatives about the realities of your child’s food allergy and what will happen if they are exposed to foods they are allergic to.
In order to fully protect your child, you also need to explain cross-contamination and food preparation techniques. If your hosts have not been exposed to food allergies, leaving them to figure it out is not the way to go. Let them know how food can be prepped safely. Offer suggestions as well as substitutions they can use to ensure that everyone enjoys the meal.
Aside from food preparation, let them know that leaving food out that your child is allergic to is also dangerous. It may be helpful to use an analogy. For instance, if your child is allergic to nuts, let them know that the nuts generally on the coffee table is as bad as leaving a bottle of cleaning chemicals there.
Ask that all family and friends dispose of their unwanted food promptly when they are done eating and to not offer your child food. As you prepare your child’s plate, you know what is safe and what is not; however, other members may not know every food item that poses a danger to them.
Although keeping your child safe is ultimately your responsibility, educating friends and family can help everyone have a happy, healthy holiday together.