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Marci Komssi
BY Marci Komssi

How to Keep Your Child with Food Allergies Safe Without Being “That Mom”

No parent wants to be known as a nag or a helicopter parent, or make others roll their eyes when they hear your name. Our new superintendent once referred to me as “Oh, that mom” when reminded that I was the mom of the boy who was given a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the second day of second grade (and the nurse didn’t administer epinephrine).

When our kids are little and on our hip, it’s easy to keep them safe and make sure they don’t grab things they shouldn’t. But what about toddlers? Or five-year-olds? Or tweens and teens?

Last month, we talked about how to keep children living with food allergies safe when at picnics or BBQs. But we only touched on the best way to remind others of your child’s needs. Here are a few ways to keep your child safe without feeling like a nag or hover mother or “that mom” in any scenario:

At Parties

Prior to attending, let the hostess know about your child’s allergies and ask what is being served. Making the hostess aware of your child’s allergies may keep allergens off the table in the first place. Either way, knowing the menu ahead of time allows you to have a safe option ready for your child.

Dress your child for party success with a T-shirt or a removable tattoo designed to alert others to any allergies. This is a great way to remind others of your child’s restrictions without having to keep making announcements yourself.

At Day Care

Visual reminders like stickers, medical alert bracelets, and clearly labeled snacks will remind those caring for your child of his or her allergens. If you drop your child off with a diaper bag each day, add a reminder to the bag as well. Having an allergy action plan you’ve created with your child’s allergist is also a must.

At School

After my son was given that peanut butter and jelly sandwich in second grade, I knew something more than an allergy action plan needed to be in place. We decided to utilize a 504 plan, which protects students with disabilities. You can find sample 504 plans for food allergies on the Kids with Food Allergies site.

Action plans and 504 plans are great, but schools still need reminders, as your child won’t be the only one with these plans. Meeting with the principal, school nurse, and teachers before the school year starts is a must. We also like to revisit our son’s 504 plan and action plan before the holiday season begins and toward the end of the school year as a gentle reminder, just in case a teacher is planning a party or activity that includes food.

For parents who will be meeting with their child’s school in the upcoming weeks, here’s a great article from the Allergic Living site to help you prepare for that meeting: Prepare to Meet the School on Allergy Needs – In 10 Easy Steps.

At Relatives’ Homes

This is probably where I feel I nag the most. I understand that when you don’t live with it day in and day out, it’s easy to forget. If we are traveling to visit, I usually let the host know that we will be bringing safe options for our son. That is usually the only reminder needed. There have been times when nut products have been brought out during our visit. Thankfully, a gentle reminder is all that is needed.

If you have a family member or friend who just doesn’t “get” your child’s food allergies, food allergy advocate Gina Clowes has some suggestions in her article 7 Ways to Resolve Food Allergy Issues with Family and Friends on the Allergic Living site.

Resources for Tweens and Teens

Tweens and teens won’t want Mom and Dad stepping in to advocate for them, right? We have to hope they’ve taken in all that we have modeled for them. Then they will be their own best advocates. Just in case, here are a couple of excellent resources:

The key to living safely with food allergies is persistence, organization, and resilience. This starts once your child is diagnosed. Children model our behavior and actions. If we confidently, without apology, advocate for our children from the get-go, they will watch and learn how to advocate for themselves.

One fellow allergy mom even told me that her three-year-old now asks, “Is that safe for me?” whenever anyone is offering food. It’s never too early to teach your children to speak up to stay safe.

Marci Komssi

Written on August 15, 2017 by:

Marci Komssi holds an MBA in Organization Leadership and International Business from Johnson and Wales University. She is the former Director of Admissions for the Central Mass Campus of Bay Path University where she continues to teach leadership classes . After leaving the admissions office of BPU in 2011 she continued working with women as Program Manager for Dress for Success, Worcester where she assisted women with their interview skills, resume building, networking, career advancement and more. Currently, she owns her own food allergy awareness business called AllerWare. Over the past 12 years Marci has become a public advocate for the safety of children with serious allergies. After a lunch bag mix-up in 2nd grade landed her son in the hospital, she knew something had to change. She started the Central Massachusetts Parents of Children with Food Allergies Support Group and began talking with principals, nurses, and school superintendents to ensure that no other child would go through what her son did. Out of the support group came a resource guide for her local school system, which has since been adopted by several school systems around the country. The support group has also held Allergy Awareness events held at libraries and schools. Her personal mission is to raise awareness while protecting children from this invisible disability.