One of the hardest things I find about managing both life threatening food allergies and asthma is talking to others. I hate to be the one is perceived as demanding, pushing or for asking too much. What I now know, sixteen years later, is that honest, clear information presented with kindness works!
Note: As always, consult with your physician before you make changes to the management of any health condition. Gratefulfoodie does not endorse any of the businesses or organizations listed and has not received payment to list these resources. My goal is to help you find tools that might make life easier.
We all approach our situations from different angles. For example, if I am speaking to a close friend, I will ask directly for their support. If I am speaking to a relative, I’ll share the diagnosis and more facts, etc. If I am speaking to a professional, such as a teacher or coach, I’ll state facts and leave behind information for them to read when they have more time.
But…there are some basic tools that you might find helpful…
Create your talking points.
• Choose your top three points (too many points will confuse people) of what you want. For example, I want my child only to eat food provided by me, to only be under the supervision of an adult who can use his epinephrine auto-injector and call 911 and to be included – please give me the opportunity to work with you to keep the environment safe and balanced for all.
• Start off with sentence sharing what you are seeking, without being demanding. For example, “Sally, my son was just diagnosed with life threatening food allergies. I’m feeling overwhelmed and need your support…” Or, “Mrs. Smith, little Sam has life threatening food allergies and to keep him safe at school we follow his 504 plan, I would like to setup a meeting immediately and most of all, I appreciate your support”.
• Share your points and only use items that are vetted in which you can provide substantiating data. For example, if you are saying that more than 15% of school age children experience a reaction at school, then have that citation available-see FARE Facts and Stats below.
• Leave your emotion at the door. Once we become emotional, and this is hard to avoid, people believe that we might be over reacting and dismiss our needs. Nobody wants the helicopter parent label!
• Be ready to problem solve and offer solutions while staying flexible and open.
Consider printing out information to leave behind.
• Use only vetted Facts and Statistics! Check out Food Allergy Research and Education’s Food Allergy Facts and Statistics for the US document. This is my go-to tool worth it’s weight in gold.
• Understand that some people aren’t even sure of how real or life threatening food allergies are! Therefore, provide links to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), Kids with Food Allergies (KFA) – a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America or the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT).
• Use tools during your conversation. FAACT offers bookmarks that are wonderful conversation starters, KFA and FARE both have downloadable posters.
Bonus: Share a glimpse into the life into how food allergies are managed with FARE’s free downloadable Food Allergy Field Guide.
- Six That Saves Lives – How to Respond to an Anaphylaxis Emergency – this poster demonstrates the serious nature of allergies
- I Am A Child With Food Allergies – is powerful beyond words and it is customizable so you may add your child’s name and photo
- Talking Food Allergies – Snappy Comebacks – for situations that require a quick wit to open up that door of educational opportunity.
Know Your Boundaries. Keep in mind your deal breakers. For example, you are working on picnic plans and learn that a few others want to stop at a restaurant on the way home. What is acceptable? Can you offer solutions?
If you believe you are going to loose your cool, ask a friend or fellow allergy parent to listen to what you plan on discussing. Listen honestly to their feedback. If you are meeting with a school or an entity, bringing someone else along to provide insight or to help me stay in check can worth the time and energy.
I personally have a group that I call my, “talk-me-off-ledge-types”, who I call when I need to vent and get my head cleared.
I am frightfully biased, but my online article for Allergic Living Magazine, “Food Allergies at the Holidays: 12 ways to just say no,” can be used all year long.
I hope that information was helpful
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