Let’s be honest: Being an allergy parent can be exhausting! There’s all that usual parenting stuff that can wear even the best of us down from time to time, plus we’re busy reading labels, making appointments with specialists, educating neighbors and family members, decoding mystery hives (Is it viral? Did he eat something? Ugh!), and whipping up a full meal of safe foods so your daughter can attend her pal’s birthday party next weekend. Every parent needs the occasional break and you’re no different! Take a deep breath and try some of these tips to relax and recharge.
Make Time for Self-Care
Before a plane takes off, the flight crew runs through a series of safety instructions just in case there’s an inflight emergency. They show you where to find the exits. They let you know that your seat can also be a floatation device. They also remind you that should the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling, you are to put yours on before you help anyone else with theirs. To a parent, that almost seems counterintuitive. We want to make sure our kids are safe, and we can wait; but the reality is if we don’t care for ourselves, we may not be able to care for them.
That’s not just a good lesson for flying. It’s an important life lesson in general. You have to make time to take care of you or you’re no good to anyone. Don’t get so caught up in tending to every detail to ensure your child has an allergy-safe existence that you neglect your own care. Carve out time on a regular basis for you – and I don’t just mean putting on that oxygen mask. I mean make time to connect with a hobby you love or to catch up with friends. Go on and make plans for a date night with your spouse (yes, you can find a babysitter you trust!).
Make it a Team Effort
Food allergies can be scary. Some of us like to deal with scary things but keep the details and responsibility to ourselves. We feel safer when we have complete control. It’s terrifying to let go and trust someone else to share the load. . . even if that other person is our spouse. If that sounds like you, it’s time to let go a little and trust the person you love to help take care of this other person you both love. Sit down together and get on the same allergy management page and then trust your significant other to be as awesome an allergy parent as you are.
We’re not done here. Your spouse isn’t the only other person that can help shoulder the load. You’ve got a support system of friends, coaches, educators, and family who can step up to the plate and be stellar food-allergy champions with the proper instruction and a little patience. Figure out a realistic food-allergy management plan – your doctor can help with this! – and then identify your food-allergy-friendly tribe. Get those folks on board with the things that need to be done to keep your child safe and then trust them to do it. This gives you access to a whole network of folks that can help you out!
Make Your Child a Team Member
Whether your child is a toddler or teen, it can be hard to let go of the parenting reigns and give them age-appropriate measures of independence, even when allergies aren’t part of the equation. I get it. The kid that just painted himself red with finger paint and placed stickers all over his forearms can’t possibly be prepared to manage a life-threatening food allergy. Frankly, you’re also not so sure that your 13-year-old who can’t find her homework under the pile of dirty laundry she’s yet to get into the hamper is ever going to be responsible enough to eat out with her friends without you hovering nearby. It’s scary. This is your child we’re talking about. Your baby! But, bringing them on-board as full members of the allergy management team is not just important for your sanity. It’s important for their future. (We’ve got some tips to help you get that started here: Growing Allergic Adults.) Trust me here. Knowing your child is equipped to be part of the allergy management team – whether or not they are ready to be fully independent with it – is going to go a long way in helping you let go a little and trusting others to help you out.