We’ve been told that “It takes a village” to raise a child and that certainly is the case for a child with food allergies. As a grandparent, you naturally want the best for your grandchildren, yet the notion of a life-threatening allergy to an innocent food can be hard to grasp.
If your grandchild has been diagnosed with food allergies, you must take this medical diagnosis very seriously. Even if he or she is one of the lucky ones who will eventually outgrow the allergy, it is crucial that you err on the side of caution.
Leading pediatric allergist Dr. Robert Wood of Johns Hopkins explained that “One of the most common causes of reactions in allergic children is related to food being provided by the grandparents who never really understood or believed the notion that their grandchild had this severe food allergy.”
The good news is that studies have shown that when caregivers are trained in avoiding, recognizing and treating allergic reactions, the frequency and severity of these reactions decreases. The following tips can help you to ease the burden on your loved ones and will enable you to become a more reliable caregiver.
1. Abide by their rules—even if you don’t understand them. Since the day their child was diagnosed, your son or daughter has been learning a new way of life with severe food allergies. There are a lot of ambiguities and there is a lot of stress. Assume that the parents know best. You won’t get a chance for a “do-over” if your grandchild has a reaction.
2. Doctor’s orders Let your grandchild’s physician handle his or her medical care. Allergy parents are bombarded with hokey tips and media stories of treatments and cures involving everything from worms, to herbs, to acupuncture. Some of this research is very promising but for now, assume your grandchild is in good hands with his current physician.
3. Engage but don’t overstep. I read once that grandparents are like pinch hitters. They need to sit on the bench until they’re called up. Allergy parents (especially after a recent reaction or diagnosis) often have a lot of anxiety over their child’s condition. If you are asked and are able to help, fantastic. But unless you truly believe your grandchild is in danger, don’t suggest alternative ways of managing allergies.
4. Pick your battles! Holidays are one of the most challenging times for allergy families. Prioritize. What is the most important thing about the holidays? As Suze Orman says “People first.” Yes, you want to make your traditional nut braid and thumb print cookies, but believe me, you can have a festive and loving holiday without cookies, candy, mashed potatoes, even pumpkin pie. But you can’t have a glorious family holiday if one family is missing. So think and think again about what’s most important.