Isabelle de Mallmann, Psychologist
Food allergies cause emotional reactions in children and their parents. It is important to define these reactions and take them into account to improve the quality of life of these families.
The main reactions are:
Food allergies are serious, children and their parents need to be aware of the risks without dramatizing the situation or letting the aforementioned emotional reactions take over.
Parents of allergic children may become very anxious because they are living with the fear of a possible accident. This anxiety can lead to over-protection and can create an exclusive dependence between the parents and their children. In addition, parents can transfer their anxiety to their children who are at risk of developing anxious personalities.
Helping families of allergic children
Here is some advice to address these problems:
Families face a new set of challenges with each age group. While children from 3 to 6 years can have such attitudes as refusing food or insisting on eating potentially dangerous ones, those aged 6 to 10 years may experience fear or anxiety when they are outside of their comfort zone. As for adolescents, their need to stand out and to belong to their peer group can prevent them from talking about their allergies (not sharing their concerns nor warning their friends about their allergies), or even push them to take risks such as not reading the list of ingredients or secretly eating forbidden foods...
Parents should observe their children: each child will be ready to take the above described independence at a different age, according to his or her own maturity, to his or her parents’ attitudes, and to the severity of his or her allergies.
If your children have emotional or psychological problems because of their allergies, you can talk to their allergist or contact a psychologist. It is important to help them express their feelings with people they trust and who can help them understand what is happening in their bodies and how to manage it.
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