Davonne is guest posting today on the topic of children with food allergies and sensitivities. Please join us as we hear her personal story of parenting a child with food allergies.
Navigating Special Events With A Food-Allergy Child
With so many GMOs, more and more kids are developing food allergies and special events are becoming more challenging than ever before.
Since my husband is lactose intolerant, I have a gluten sensitivity, and one of my children needs to eat gluten-free as well, we’ve gone completely gluten-free and dairy-free at home. I’ve also spent the past several months learning how to navigate food at places like church potlucks, dinners with extended family, birthday parties, and homeschool events.
Here are five things I’ve learned about navigating special events when dealing with food allergies and sensitivities:
1. It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks.
Many people have been very supportive of my five-year-old eating gluten free.
There are, unfortunately, also nay-sayers who are convinced that food issues are mostly imagined. They’re usually not trying to be mean – many times they’re just lucky enough that they haven’t needed to understand food sensitivities or allergies.
Thank supportive people, be kind to non-supportive people, and keep unapologetically doing what’s best for your family.
2. It’s about the feelings as well as the food
When my husband and I first tested a gluten free diet with our daughter, I felt like I needed to have her own homemade gluten free version of everything that was served everywhere we went. This was exhausting and was something I knew I didn’t want to keep up long-term.
I’ve since realized that eating gluten-free has more to do with how my daughter feels about what’s being served than it has to do with the actual food itself. In other words, many times a food-sensitive child simply feels left out.
Keeping homemade cupcakes in the freezer and a favorite treat in the car or class cabinet are helpful in making kids feel included at events. Using words like, “Special” and “Just for you” when serving the food also helps with this!
3. Let the host know you’re going to bring something.
Most hosts want to accommodate guests but it’s difficult for a host to cater to every single food allergy that may be present.
Bless the host by calling in advance and saying something like, “Suzie is so excited about attending Jessica’s birthday party next Friday! She can’t have wheat so I’m going to send a cupcake and slice of homemade pizza with her. Thanks so much for inviting her!”
4. Only be as picky as you need to be.
Don’t expect anyone to make special accommodations for you if you’re not 100% in all the time. If you occasionally let your dairy-free child eat a bowl of full-dairy ice cream, then don’t be surprised when other people don’t believe you or don’t want to help accommodate you.
If your kids benefit from a low-dairy diet (one of mine does!), but don’t need to be dairy free all the time, then keep dairy out of your house but don’t expect others to start cooking with almond milk and Earth Balance butter just to accommodate your feelings on a particular day.
5. Be an example by serving guests what your family can eat.
I hosted two events this summer and each time I was a little worried about what to serve.
The solution was simpler than I thought it would be. I have a motto to “Bless – not impress – the guests” and living that motto meant serving a huge batch of fried rice at each event.
It also meant grilling foods that didn’t need buns or condiments and it meant putting bowls of fresh fruit out for guests enjoy. While not our typical party fare, everyone was happy and well-fed without us needing to break the bank!
It’s possible to learn to successfully navigate events with food allergies. When you have a good attitude, don’t expect to be catered to, extend plenty of grace to yourself and others, and find out which foods are really important to your kids (Is it the pizza? The iced-cupcakes?), then you’re well on your way to becoming a food-allergy expert!
Davonne Parks believes that some of life’s richest moments happen when we embrace the beauty of imperfection as we extend grace to ourselves and others. She and her husband, Nathan, have two sweet daughters, Lily and Grace. Davonne has written three inspiring eBooks, and she blogs about organization, simplicity, and heart-filled motherhood. Davonne also offers free personalized virtual-organizational tips and fun rewards as part of her popular brand-new Get Organized challenge.