Six months after suffering a near life-ending anaphylactic reaction to peanuts at school, my son stood rigid at the school bus stop. He’d missed the last three months of school the previous year while recovering from the reaction leaving him detached from classmates and school in general, but his rigidity was about more than that. He was afraid of leaving the safety net provided at home; a place where he could eat like a normal person without fear of dying. Attachment issues are common in children with food allergies, but parents aren’t always equipped with the tools needed to guide their children through the emotional struggles of the real world.
Food Allergy Education Skips Over the Emotional Fight
None of the pamphlets or websites suggested by my son’s pediatrician or allergist talks about attachment issues or fear of leaving the safety of home. They all cover the physical demands of living with or parenting a child with food allergies, but there is much more to life than physical constraints and emergency medical treatments. Children with food allergies are expected to learn the allergy, fear the allergy and live a normal life despite the allergy, but often the only place they feel safe is in a controlled environment like home.
Parents Must Cope First
Children may not understand the struggle of parenting a child with food allergies, but they know when something is wrong and often respond emotionally to parent mood. Parents must first come to terms with the life they’ve been given and that path requires time and education. Learn everything you can about food allergies. Pay close attention to how the information you’re learning pertains to your child and life. Pass your knowledge on to school teachers , family members and friends. Teaching others gives you the safety net you need and the security to trust others with your child’s care. Your outlook on parenting a child with food allergies will change and you’ll be in a better position to pass that safe feeling on to your child.
Detaching from the Attached Child
Attachment is not just about staying close to home and safety, it is a protective mechanism children employ based on fear . Forcefully detaching an attached child can lead to psychological side effects, including disruptive behavior and conflict with others. Some parents and children find solace in a slow, steady detachment with frequent parent visits to school or daily interactions at lunch slowly diminishing as the school year progresses.
It took a few months of school, lots of calls home and quite a few lunch dates for my son to gain back the emotional strength he needed to take on the school day alone. I still get calls every once in a while with that tiny voice asking for reassurance, but children are resilient and they gain strength from the people they trust the most – their parents.
More from Summer on Food Allergies
Is Home Food Desensitization Safe?
3 Tips for Dating with Food Allergies
Bullying, Food Allergies and Risk-Taking Behavior