5 Ways to Empower Tweens and Teens to Manage Food Allergies

The tween and teen years are a time generally marked by greater independence and responsibility in each adolescent’s life. By the time your child has reached middle school, he or she should be accustomed to carrying their own epinephrine. They should know how to read labels independently, be able to recognize symptoms of an allergic reaction, and know how to administer their epinephrine.

While your child is becoming more independent and increasingly more responsible for managing their own food allergy, this time, just like many of the other stages of development, comes with its own set of challenges.

Severe and even fatal allergic reactions are more common among adolescents and young adults. Pressure to fit in and a sense of invincibility that teenagers commonly exhibit contribute to risk-taking behaviors in regards to managing their food allergies. It is not uncommon for adolescents and young adults to not always carry their epinephrine. They may even intentionally eat food that may not be safe.

At this stage it is important to reinforce safety precautions and work with your child to implement them while meeting their need for increased independence and responsibility. Research suggests that education of teenagers with food allergies and their peers (especially those they are likely to be around in social situations) might reduce risk-taking behavior and related allergic reactions.¹

Here are 5 ways to empower tweens and teens to successfully manage food allergies:

  1. Remind them that their food allergy is still serious, no matter what their age is. As kids get older and go several years without experiencing an allergic reaction, it is easy for them to become complacent and to begin to think of their allergy as “not a big deal.” Remind them that this is just evidence that their vigilance in avoiding their allergens is paying off and that carrying their epinephrine is still their “back-up lifeline.”
  2. Find a system that works for them. Is your child always forgetting their epinephrine or deliberately leaving it behind because it’s cumbersome to carry? Ask your tween or teen what would make it easier for them to remember or to carry.
  3. Start them early. Managing his or her food allergy should eventually be like second nature to your child. In fact, if your kiddo was diagnosed at an early age, it probably already is. The earlier you can have them practice reading labels, ordering their own food, carrying their own autoinjectors, and self-advocating under your supervision, the more comfortable you both will be as they get older.
  4. Help them build their own support network. Help your child to surround herself with people who have her back. Encourage her to share her allergies openly with good friends and to teach them how they can help in an emergency situation. True friends want to be helpful and look out for each other.
  5. Keep the dialogue open. This is true of any parent-child relationship, but it applies to food allergy management, as well. Let your tween/teen express the thoughts, concerns, or challenges that they may experiencing and give them the opportunity to come up with ways to deal with them with your guidance and support.

I would love to hear some of your thoughts on empowering teens and tweens to manage food allergies. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

References:

  1. Margaret Sampson, Anne Munoz-Furlong, and Scott Sicherer. “Risk-Taking and Coping Strategies of Adolescents and Young Adults with Food Allergy.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 117, no 6. (2006): 1440-1445.
About Tiffany deSilva

Hi I'm Tiffany deSilva, MSW, CPC, CHC, Founder of BrightFire Living, LLC. I am a social worker, speaker, author, certified health, wellness and lifestyle coach, certified green living coach and toxic-free consultant. I am passionate about helping women like you to detox each area of your life, safeguard your family's health, and live life fully charged and completely lit up! I am on a mission to empower women and families who are managing food allergies, autoimmune disorders, and other modern chronic health conditions to live a safe, happy, and healthy life that truly lights your fire!

Feedback & Comments:

  1. Early diagnosis really helps. These tips for empowering teens to manage their own food choices are so important. You can never overemphasize the need for them to be vigilant.

  2. It can be so scary for parents when food allergic kids hit that “independent” age. I think these are essential tips to not only safety, but sanity!

  3. I’ll need to re-read this in about ten years. Thanks!

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