As a mother of a child with severe food allergies, I know holidays can be difficult to enjoy. A lot of hard work and planning goes into each holiday to keep your child safe and happy. But it is all worth it when you know your child can safely celebrate the holiday fun.
Even if you don’t have a child with a food allergy, you likely know one. Here are a few tips to help make any holiday safe for kids with food allergies (and hopefully, happy, too!):
Check in with your child’s teacher at school about any in-school holiday party plans. When talking with this teacher, learn what food will be served for the celebration. Make sure to ask if any crafts or games will involve food. (I recall a year when M&Ms were used as markers in a game of Bingo). It also may be a good time to recommend non-food treats like pencils, erasers, bouncy balls, and stickers.
Provide a safe snack to have available for your child when he needs it: at the school party, at a friend’s house after school, or even at home. It may also be helpful to keep a bag of safe treats on hand in the classroom should unexpected eating occasions arise throughout the semester, like a classmate’s birthday or a game of bingo (the fruit snacks kept in my son’s classroom worked well as Bingo markers!).
Practice with your child how to say ‘no thank you’ to unsafe food. And reinforce the practice of whenever there is any question about the safety of a food, the only secure answer is to say ‘no thank you’.
Plan with your child how to handle unexpected candy that could be attached to cards or given as gifts from classmates and friends. A possible solution could be that your child doesn’t open cards or gifts until he is home. Your child’s teacher can also help with this plan.
And, if you have the opportunity to educate the school’s staff and families about food allergies, see FARE Be a Pal: Protect a Life from Food Allergies education program. It was developed to help children learn how to be a good friend to kids with food allergies. The materials are free to download.
Even though holidays can cause a heightened risk for children with food allergies, the advanced planning and preparation for the holiday can help everyone enjoy happy and healthy holidays!!