Part of the stress that arises from dealing with a food allergy is that so many times something unexpected will crop up. That is especially true during the holidays where there is so much food, family parties and other activities that make a nut-free parent feel overwhelmed at times.
We may feel "hypervigilant." I'm sure you all know what I mean: The nagging feeling that you have to constantly scan the room and every potential danger for your child. Doesn't make for a very fun time, does it? That's one reason so many parents want to skip certain festivities and I'm all for doing this if you simply need a break. But most of the time, we can push through our fears and celebrate happily while keeping our kids safe.
My FAAN newsletter addresses this problem in the latest issue. One of the things that Lisa Provost discusses in her article "Managing Holiday Stress" is how to cope with unexpected situations. One suggestion I really liked was to appoint a family member, spouse or friend as your "support person" during the holidays. You may need someone to vent to, and it's good to know you've got someone to rely on ahead of time. (And hey, feel free to vent here!)
When you encounter an unexpected food allergy challenge this holiday season, Ms. Provost suggests the following tips:
- Take several deep breaths and consciously work to clear your head. This literally gives you breathing room to decide what you need.
- Mentally review your safety plan. There is much you cannot control, but being prepared, and reminding yourself that you are prepared, can lessen the anxiety.
- When you encounter judgment, resistance, or lack of empathy and understanding, find appropriate ways to express your feelings of anger, hurt, disappointment, anxiety and sadness. You may choose to state your feelings to the person involved or to remove yourself from the situation. Later you can discuss your feelings with a trusted friend, write in your journal, walk or do whatever you find most effective for managing intense emotions.
Many of us may travel during the holidays and that only adds to our stress. Besides actual travel concerns, we may worry that our child's needs may not be met at our destination. If we stay with relatives or friends that we see infrequently, we may rightly be concerned that they are not as familiar with our child's condition or needs.
I send an e-mail to my relatives a few weeks before a visit that outlines nut-free foods, meal preparation, etc. I do it in a very friendly way, but I get the point across. Also, I suggest an EpiPen "refresher course" for everyone who may be caring for your child during the holidays. I'm not saying to do this the second you arrive, right after the coats come off. But fairly early in the visit it doesn't hurt to remind everybody how to use the EpiPen and to see if anyone has questions for you.
There will be more on this later in the season and as always, I welcome your comments and tips!