by Amanda Painter, South Chapter Coordinator
For those of us who are parents, caregivers, friends, teachers, and coaches to children with food allergies, remember that they hear what you say. The words that you use have a direct impact. If a child consistently hears that he/she is suffering, then that child will likely begin to view the food allergy (or any other condition or disability) in a way that may negatively affect the child’s sense of well-being.
Please understand that I am in no way discounting the pain that comes with food allergies. As a mother of a child with food allergies, I have witnessed and experienced this pain through my child. It is real and it hurts deeply at times. There is physical pain with each allergic reaction (from mild to severe), with allergy testing, and with each related disorder that usually accompanies this diagnosis. There is also heavy emotional pain that comes along with each allergic reaction, test result, lifestyle adjustment, etc...
and it is especially hurtful when the child/individual is viewed as different and excluded, for whatever reason.
Instead of placing the idea of suffering into a child’s head, we must use our words to encourage children and individuals with food allergies. Positive, intentional speech is a wonderful way to encourage, uplift and empower children to learn coping skills that aid in effective self-management.
Here are a couple of different word options that I prefer to use...
Manage: to have control of something.
: to take care of and make decisions about something. 1
Live: to be alive.
: to continue to be alive.
: to have a life rich in experience. 1
“My child lives with a food allergy.”
“The kids who are managing food allergies.”
Changing this one word can make a difference in our attitude towards food allergies and diagnosis of a disability.
Language is an incredibly powerful tool. Please use it in a positive manner. Living with food allergies is challenging, but challenges can be managed. When we use positive language to communicate about food allergies we promote understanding instead of pity.
Children (and adults) with food allergies should be taught that they are always in control, and often this relates to how they allow the diagnosis of food allergy to emotionally affect their life. We need to show them how to manage their allergies, how to be confident with their differences, and to LIVE a full life despite food allergies. Teach them to focus on actions to take, instead of being passive and feeling as if he/she is a victim or led by fear. Managing food allergies is a life skill that is vital to physical health, as well as emotional health.
Suffering shouldn’t be part of the identity of you or your child. Food allergies are only one portion of life; a portion that we are managing daily while living a life rich in experience.
1 Merriam-Webster Online
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