Friday, September 2, 2011

Food Allergies and Family Balance: Non-Allergic Sibs

I have two daughters, one with food allergies and one without. Sometimes it feels like I've got one foot in two worlds. The one child can't have many things that the other one can. This sometimes creates awkward situations. We don't bring peanut or tree nut products into our home and as a family out and about together, we avoid high-risk places like ice cream shops, doughnut shops and Thai food (which my youngest loves.)

Sometimes brother(s) or sister(s) can feel deprived if they are not getting the chance to enjoy the things that they can eat and do, even though their food-allergic sibling can't.

If you have kids both with food allergies and without, you know exactly what I mean. Our entire family empathizes with our oldest daughter and the fact that she can't enjoy the same foods that we can, at times. Still, we want our youngest to be able to partake of, say, an ice cream cone at an ice cream shop.

To make sure everybody gets their fair share, I've begun taking my youngest daughter to a place that's usually off-limits and I shoot for once a week. For example, last week we went to Dunkin Donuts. You would have thought I just gave the kid a million dollars; she beamed the whole time. We're going back this week and then going to a Halloween store (already!!!!) to look around.

This is special time together for the two of us, but it also lets my youngest be free of food allergy restraints that are imposed on her for the sake of her sister.

My oldest isn't left out, either. I also make a point to go out and do a non-food related (or safe food-related, sometimes) activity with her. We like to look at resale an antique shops together or go to the bookstore or library or even a movie that is "too old" for her younger sister.

It's hard to balance the needs of the allergic kids from the non-allergic. The kids without allergies don't always understand that the reason we sometimes give extra attention to the others is because of health and safety. They may just see it as extra attention, period, so I've found that it's really important to show them equal time.

If you have both non-allergic and allergic kids in your family, how do you balance their needs?

10 comments:

Kym said...

Great post and something I feel overwhelmed with frequently. My youngest who is four has mulitple food allergies. I'm always wondering if my other four children feel like everything revolves around the allergies. One thing we do is send the siblings to Grandma & Grandpa's house for a special sleepover when they get to indulge in off-limit foods. We also have "dream afternoons" with the siblings, when we dream about having a seperate house where we make all our favorite peanut butter snacks and we reminisce over all the things we used to bake. There's always much laughing... and then returning to normal peanut/tree nut free life :)

Lindsay said...

I think parents have to make time for each child (even if they don't have food allergies in the family). Every child is unique and special, with different interests, different abilities and talents, different personalities, etc. I didn't have food allergies growing up, but I always loved when my mom or dad would take me to do something special (and I'm sure my sister felt the same way when it was her turn). I think this is a great parenting practice, no matter what!

Anonymous said...

I struggle with this daily. Two of my boys have multiple food allergies while my other two have none. I used to only allow safe snacks in my house until one day when my non-allergic toddler asked me to buy doughnuts while at the store. I told him "no, your brothers can't eat those," and my son said, "I know, but I can.". Lightbulb moment for me. We now have a cabinet for all unsafe snacks. I still struggle with denying my non-allergic sons snacks at ballgames and outings etc. The guilt never ends...

Misti said...

My youngest, 2, has the peanut allergy and our oldest, 3, misses out on some fun treats because of it. But, sometimes we will get a special treat and when the 3 year old gets up from her nap first, we'll take her out on the back porch and let her have a special snack. At 3, there is no way to explain to her the safety issues and she really hasn't caught on yet that she misses out on stuff. I felt bad for our 2 year old, though, a few weeks ago. After playgroup, some friends were going to Chick-fil-A - a PA mom's nightmare - but the kids going were our 3 year old's friends, so I brought our 2 year old home and took the 3 year old to be with her friends. Did I do the right thing? It's hard to be fair (and safe) at the same time!

RunCrissieRun said...

You bring up great points. I have 16 and 14 yr olds without allergies, and an 8 yr old with. It was a drastic change going from peanut butter toast in the mornings to being a complete tree nut and peanut free house. We do much the same as you - divide and conquer and make each child feel as special as we know they are. Non-food treats and special events are usually top on our list, but I'll often take the youngest one to a movie while my husband takes the oldest for ice cream. It works - and because the siblings love each other, it's sacrifices everyone is willing to make.

MonicaB said...

We struggle with this all the time. My middle child has food allergies. I have heard this isn't fair from all my children when it comes to food. When me or my husband take one of the boys with us we make sure they get to enjoy an off-limit treat. We also have treats that only our food allergic child is allowed to eat - so they are special to him.

I've also educated my children on what is health and what is not. Most of the food we have to avoid is not natural and they shouldn't be eating it often anyways. I make them read the labels and tell me what things are. I'm always amazed when they get to some strange ingredient and ask what is that, when I tell them it is some kind of chemical they think twice about putting it in their body.

Thanks for the great post!

Anonymous said...

Our youngest of 3 kids is allergic to all dairy, wheat, eggs, beef, pork, and of course, nuts. Our other two are allergic to nothing. It can be quite a challenge, and we've had a few scares. Even though it is tough to deny the other kids certain treats, they understand that it is best for our youngest. It simply isn't worth the risk to have "poison" food in the house when you have an allergic two year old that doesn't know what he can't have. We're hopeful that he will outgrow some of these allergies as he gets older.

Tanya said...

Interesting reading the comments. Not having peanut products just isn't a big deal for our family. My son was 5 1/2 when my daughter had her first reaction and he is 9 yrs old now. There are many many other foods to indulge in and both DH and I are both big foodies so we are constantly cooking and trying new recipes. Our home is entirely peanut/tree nut free and I don't make a big deal out of it. We have never talked about it not being fair -- it is what it is and I consider it a VERY small sacrifice. Last month my son did ask me what a Snickers was ... lol ... 9 yrs old and never had a Snickers .. so I went and bought him one and he ate it outside. He said it was "okay". I feel like my daughter's allergy is teaching my son to be much more empathetic than other children his age -- he is very accepting of other kids who may be different.

Andrea said...

Older child has food allergies, younger one does not. He does eat stuff she is allergic to, esp as she is dairy allergic -- he has milk and cheese, etc. When it comes to treats, though, I bake safe stuff or buy safe stuff and they both have it. If we are out for treats, we find a place that does Italian ices or popsicles. He will have tons of time to get treats at school or with a friend, no reason to rub it in her face when we are all together.

Gretchen said...

Thank you for your thoughtful post; in my "other life" I am a therapist, so have an appreciation for the intent of this post. The many posts lately about taking time to recognize the affects on a family, marriage, etc are important and, in my opinion so healthy. Hopefully, it keeps all asking good questions of one another and respecting one anothers' challenges, whatever they may be. So glad to see the acknowledgement...Thank you!