Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Note to Parents: Don't Feel Guilty

Every once in a while, the food allergy community will amble back to the subject of eating their children's allergens and the emotions parents feel when they do so. I see a lot of guilt from fellow food allergy parents--they feel bad for enjoying something that could kill their child, and feel even worse about their strong cravings for said foods. Often following this are discussions of when/where parents enjoy these guilty pleasures and how they clean up afterwards.

I, of course, see this situation from two sides. I am a food allergy parent capable of eating foods my children can't eat, and I am an individual with allergies to foods other members of my family (including my kids) CAN eat.

So from that perspective of both sides of the coin, let me tell you something about that feeling of guilt.


You really don't need to feel guilty.

You don't need to feel too sad about enjoying this wonderful food that your child may never eat--because chances are you child will not even want to.

This is far from universal, but food aversions can set in early. A lot of kids who grow out of food allergies aren't eager to eat those previous allergens. I can tell you that tree nuts have absolutely 0% allure for me. I am beyond disinterested. The only times I've felt disappointed was when the nuts were hidden (so the allergens that hide are more likely to trigger regret.) But really, I'm so disinterested in nuts as to not give two hoots if somebody else eats them, so long as they aren't in danger of getting any on me.

So that ice cream you feel badly about enjoying because your dairy-allergic kiddo may never get to try it? He may not want to anyway. But if you project guilt about eating it, he'll pick up on that. Don't imply that it's wrong for people to eat your child's allergens, because it's not. Just teach him how to stay safe and remind him that everyone is different.

Remember that these foods were perfectly innocent until your child developed allergies. They're still perfectly innocent to most people, and there's nothing wrong with liking them. The foods you like are part of who you are and part of who you were before you became a parent--and you don't need to feel ashamed of who you are.

Also, don't feel bad about indulging. Whether you eat that allergen while your child enjoys his own favorite treat across the table, whether you only break it out after bedtime, or if you'll only eat it when you're out of the house, it's okay. You don't need to feel guilty about eating it. Having foods that you enjoy is a part of taking care of yourself, and all kids need parents who take care of themselves. As long as you are taking precautions to keep your child safe from exposure, you are being a good parent.

Yes, he adds extra peanut butter to his peanut butter cups.

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