Parenting Through the Many Stages of Food Allergy Awareness

Teal PumpkinsAs we move forward on our food allergy journey, I’m realizing our diagnosis remains the same but everything else continues to change: our safety measures, our outlook, our comfort levels, our village of helpers, our forms of advocacy, and especially our levels of awareness.

Two years ago after participating in FARE’s walk to find a cure, I realized I needed to focus much more on my son’s awareness. After my family walked again this year, I was reminded that change is constant, and that we as parents need to be ready for it as it calls us and keep moving forward.

One of the fantastic ways our food allergy community is raising food allergy awareness this Halloween is through FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project. We are painting our pumpkins teal and putting them outside to let everyone know we have safe, non-food items available!

Keeping Up With New Levels of Awareness

As the years move forward, we are experiencing so many new levels of awareness that include:

  • more self-awareness,
  • a greater awareness of time and outcomes,
  • more questions about the future,
  • a greater focus on whether and when we will outgrow our food allergies,
  • a greater sense of inclusion and exclusion, and
  • an increased awareness of others and our surroundings.

There are so many facets. There is more of a cause-and-effect awareness, if you will: a physical awareness. If I touch this, this will happen. If I eat this, this will happen. If I don’t wipe my hands, this will happen. I need to remember to carry two epinephrine auto-injectors with me at all times.

There is more of a social awareness that may include feeings of exclusion for being different and a yearning to be included.

Even when we as parents try our hardest to plan ahead with 504 plans, independent health plans, communication with teachers, schools and everyone who touches our lives, unexpected things happen. Emergencies happen. We want our children included if humanly possible. But it has to be safe inclusion.

And of course there is an awareness of our village–of everyone who touches and enters the circle of our lives.

Too, don’t forget the awareness of our significant others. Sure, I’m on social media every day, reading the latest articles and learning from this wonderful food allergy community. But I may not always be the point person if something happens. I have to remember to include my husband and other close family members and friends in the learning.

Keeping Our Focus

Although all of these different things are happening outside of us, we can’t forget to nurture the awareness, understanding and education in our children who have the food allergies. As their minds bloom and awareness expands, so too will questions and answers that need to be addressed mindfully.

You see, once upon a time I was so focused on educating my friends and family who didn’t understand food allergy management that I forgot about the awareness of the most important person in our food allergy circle: our dear son.

We forget sometimes that our little ones need us to continue to show them too, especially as they get older.

Sure, they are living with the food allergies, but do they see the bigger picture? Do they get that 5.9 million children have food allergies? Do they understand they are not alone?

The first time my son attended FARE’s walk was the eye-opening turning point for my son: ALL of these other kids and families have food allergies, just like me? He truly couldn’t believe it. I didn’t realize he didn’t realize. We really have to try to see through our dear children’s eyes and minds.

Keeping Up With Our Kids

So we participated in the FARE walk again this year, and it was a wonderful experience, as always. But it was interesting. I’m always learning! My son tuned into different things this time, most notably the cool soccer player from George Mason University who also happens to have food allergies–and is thriving.

It’s wonderful to show our children that others also have food allergies along with other things they are managing, but it doesn’t stop them from having fun and doing what they love–while living life to the fullest!

So I’m sending a big thank you to FARE for continuing to support us and help our children see they aren’t alone. This year’s walk was another home run. It showed my son again that he not only isn’t alone, but he is joined by millions of others who are the most wonderful role models in our community!

Realizing It Certainly Takes a Village

This awareness and these feelings of hope and inclusion are some of the many inspirations for my new children’s book, HumFree the Bee Has a Food Allergy.

HumFree the Bee Has a Food AllergyI want to show my son and all children that it may be challenging, but if we take measures to stay safe–with the help of our family and friends–we can do what we love!

Safety, inclusion, awareness, hope and happiness are so important. These are the themes of my book. I also show that having the help of our friends and family is key.

At the end of the book, “HumFree’s Food Allergy Bee” offers questions and answers in a vowel acronym format, covering: Awareness, Education, Inclusion, Outreach and Understanding.

As we all know, it certainly takes a village–especially when it comes to food allergy safety and awareness. I’m so grateful and happy for ours!

If you’d like to learn more about HumFree or order a copy so you can meet him for yourself, check out my book page or place your order on Amazon!