5 Ways To Bless Families with Food Allergies

April 10, 2013 in books,lessons for moms

gluten free kidsMy youngest was unnaturally crabby as a baby. She didn’t smile much. She was always getting sick-mostly ear infections (even with tubes). Doctors said she was healthy. Still, I sought the services of a naturopath and ended up getting her tested for food sensitivities.  The lab report made me cry every time I went shopping for food. We had a new diet: no eggs, no dairy, no soy, no peanut, no kidney beans, no gluten. Nothing we ate except fruits and veggies could stay in her diet.

Food sensitivity diets do not help everyone, but for us, the diet changed our baby girl. She was healthier and happier. Eventually, she outgrew all the sensitivities but for 3 years she at soy-, egg- ,dairy- and gluten-free. For 5 years she ate gluten free. It was long enough to feel the burden of eating. And when I combined her diet with my diet for diabetes, I started to hate food. Social events, airports, and restaurants were stressful. And I didn’t even have to worry about the forbidden foods killing my child.  I have a strong memory of packing an entire suitcase of food for my Bug when we went to Honduras. The constant diligence was exhausting.

Do you know a sweet family with one or more members on special diets? Their burden is heavy. Here are ways to bless them.

1. Talk to your kids about  special diets. My Bug was relentlessly confronted by a boy at school. He insisted she stop being rude. To his mother’s credit, he knew it was polite to eat what was served. But every time someone brought a birthday cupcake, my daughter went to her locker and got her own treat. She was shy and felt unable to defend herself against this insistent boy. With 30 kids in the class, the teacher never noticed. So when your kid starts school, have a chat about special diets. If you like to share through stories like I do, look for the following books at your library:  The Bugabees: Friends with Food Allergies by Amy Recob, Allie the Allergic Elephant by Nicole Smith, or Eating Gluten Free with Emily by Bonnie J. Kruszka and Richard S. Cihlar

2. Invite the kid with a special diet to the party anyway. You may not know how to feed a classmate with a special diet. Invite her anyway. The family and the child will handle the food. Our hearts broke when a girl told Bug she wasn’t inviting her to a party  because Bug couldn’t eat cake.

3. Learn about the diet and then provide food for the family or the child. One of the greatest gifts I ever received was from a friend who cooked a birthday meal for me. She made the meal low-carb and gluten free to accommodate my daughter’s sensitivities and my diabetes. And she made two desserts, a low-sugar cheesecake for me and a gluten-free cake for my girl. You don’t have to be this extravagant though. I never expected friends or groups to accommodate our diets. I knew our diet belonged to us and was too expensive and confusing for most people. But when someone did accommodate us, I felt blessed and my burden eased. Providing a snack is just as life-giving as meal. But do your research first.  Call up the family and learn the details of the diet. Follow their instructions to a T and have labels ready so the mom can feel confident. Then when the child shows up to your church for VBS, provide special snacks just for her. Such simple actions bless a family immeasurably.

4. Inform the family about what kind of food will be served. Sometimes we would show up to church, MOPS, or preschool events where I was sure no food would be involved. Then food would show up and my girl could only eat the emergency fruit leather I carried around (they don’t crumble or leak in a purse). Often,  the cracker snack for Sunday school would be replaced with a brownie. The gluten-free crackers I always brought were a disappointment compared to a brownie.  I hated giving my girl crackers when everyone else had sweets. Older kids need to learn to deal with these realities but I wasn’t ready to make my 3-year-old face them.

5. Don’t complain. Be compassionate.  It is annoying when one or two kids’ diets mean a ban on peanut butter in the lunchroom.  And it can be disappointing when your kids can’t bring their favorite treat, peanut butter cups, for the Halloween party. But if your child could potentially die from exposure to peanuts, would you want the school to keep allowing peanut butter? If you demonstrate compassion when your child complains, they will learn volumes and that girl with the peanut allergy? Well, she just might feel more accepted.

*peanut image courtesy of criminatt/free digital photos

Sharing today at We Are That Family, Simply Helping Him

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie Moore April 10, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Oh did I ever love this! Thank you! I have food sensitivities myself and have friends and family with food allergies, some life threatening, so I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for posting this lesson in compassion and awareness. It DOES make a difference.

Just this last October we had a party for my oldest (he turned 10) and we invited a kid with multiple food issues and made sure that he didn’t have to worry – we had ice cream only (he is gluten intolerant) and all the toppings were gluten-free and peanut-free as well. It was great to be able to tell the mom that it was all food that was safe for her son to eat and let him feel “normal”. You should’ve seen how happy he was to not have to worry, and everyone was thrilled with having a build-your-own sundae. It was the first time I had ever seen the mom leave her child in another’s care without sticking around when food was involved. I was thrilled to make their day, and my son got one of his best buddies to come to his party. Win-win.

Thank you again for writing this, and I will be sharing it with all who will read it. It is perfectly said!

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pruningprincesses April 10, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Julie, what a great thing you did for that family. I am not sure people who live without restricted diets ever quite understand the burden. When you can eat anything, social events are so much easier. And thank you for sharing the post, I hope it results in blessings for those who carry this food burden.

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Julie Moore April 10, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Me, too! It was a blessing to be a blessing, and I know this post will be a blessing to others. I hope it helps open some eyes, too. 🙂

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pruningprincesses April 11, 2013 at 12:24 am

Julie, I’ve never had someone promote a post so enthusiastically. Your love for this message blesses me. Since you write about food, you know so many people I do not. Thank you.

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Julie Moore April 11, 2013 at 12:00 pm

You are so very welcome, Laura. It is a message more people need to hear. I think this is all part of awareness – letting people see what is a blessing and a help, where the struggles are, etc. I know that some people will never understand, but so many will yet have never stopped to think it all through. Posts like this help so much. They give an inside look that few really get to see and you explained the emotion and struggle so well. You not only experienced it yourself, but you dealt with it with your child. Your willingness to share such a hard, emotional time and yet a time of learning can open up eyes to the struggles so many people face, and these issues are becoming bigger issues than before. Again, I thank YOU for being brave enough and willing enough to share. God bless you richly for it!

Pam April 10, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Laura, this a wonderful and much needed post. We have many food allergies and sensitivities in our family. Both of my kids had severely restricted diets for the entire second half of their childhoods. (I do as well.) Some of their friends’ parents were so helpful and understanding, and it made such a difference. Thanks for bringing awareness about this to others.

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pruningprincesses April 11, 2013 at 12:27 am

Pam, somewhere in the back of my head, I remembered you had some food allergies. It is a burden that can be exhausting as kids get more social. I am glad you loved the message. I hope you will share it with others. I’ve only heard from moms who have food issues, and those aren’t the ones who need to read it!

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Gratefulfoodie April 10, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Julie shared this blog post with me and I really enjoyed your wonderful, kind, loving and positive outlook. Your little one is very lucky to have you as her mommy!

You are so compassionate and that come through. Good job Mom!

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pruningprincesses April 11, 2013 at 12:28 am

Hi Caroline, So nice to “meet” you. Thank you for your kind comment. I am grateful my heart comes through and grateful for your encouragement. Thanks for stopping by.

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Braden Hampson May 1, 2013 at 6:04 am

I am a father of 8 kids. Two of my youngsters (the twin) have allergy on chicken, shrimp, and eggs. I wonder how they acquired such allergy. When they were born, they were so healthy. Now they both got asthma. When there are important occasions, like birthdays, we don’t serve chicken meals anymore. And as kids, they don’t like vegetables either. So I have to convince them to eat fish.

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Arianna February 6, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Thank you so much for this great post! I have a friend whose child is seeing one of top allergist new york has, but is still having a difficult time with it. it’s nice to know that there are ways to make the whole thing easier. I will definitely be sharing.

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pruningprincesses February 13, 2014 at 4:21 am

So glad the post encouraged you. The thing with food allergies and kids is that as a mom you know that it is not reasonable to expect anyone to cater to your child’s needs. But catering to your child can be so exhausting that when someone blesses you with a meal or planned snacks at church you almost cry because you feel so blessed.

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