Managing your child’s food allergies at parties and social gatherings can fill you with dread. The thought of having to keep your child safe and included, as well as having to deal with friends, family and other parents can make it all a stressful experience.
We try not to avoid any party or social event because of J and A’s food allergies but work on finding a way to make it as safe as possible. I still get anxious and stressed, and sometimes it is harder than I would like, but I want to help them grow up without seeing their allergies as a barrier.
Whether it is a school event, friend’s party or family gathering, here are some suggestions to help you cope in every situation:
Although family should be the easiest group of people to deal with, it is often difficult as it feels more personal if they are not being as supportive as possible. Try not to let emotions run high and work on building a long term understanding.
Be clear about what you need and offer to help so they do not feel overburdened or confused
Look for solutions by providing safe recipes, product lists or organising an allergy-friendly restaurant
Host the gathering so you can have more control over what is served
Know they want to keep your child safe too but they will probably make mistakes, buy the wrong things or forget the rules as they don’t deal with it every day. Take a deep breath, explain it again and remember it’s not because they don’t care
Food Allergies At Parties
Christmas, birthdays, BBQs, Easter…there always seems to be another excuse for a party! It is always anxiety inducing for allergy parents but avoiding them is not a long term solution and is not good for you or your children.
Talk to the party host when you get the invitation so there is enough time to address any concerns
Call the venue if it is being catered externally and liaise with them directly
Get your child’s plate of food first at buffets, before any cross contamination from sticky fingers
Take your own food if you are unsure or want to make it easier for the host. Remember to think about birthday cake and treats for the party bags
Stay and supervise if your child is young or if you are concerned
The most important thing when dealing with schools is to make sure you have an allergy management plan in place. This should cover what happens on any occasion when food is involved. Try to work closely with the school to support them in keeping your child safe and make sure they give you adequate notice of any parties or social events.
Be clear what the policy is. Whether you have agreed no food in the classroom, safe treats only or a school-wide food ban, be sure it is adhered to. If events are being organised by the parents association, remind them of the policy and ask for support from the headteacher.
Offer your help to provide a list of safe alternatives, bake some cakes or organise a food-free event. The more actively involved you can be, the more you can build trust and understanding.
Talk to caterers early and in person to see if they can provide a safe menu. Many of them are very willing to help and have good allergy knowledge.
Have back up food available at school or at home which you can give your child if there is an unexpected problem
Empower your child to understand what they are able to eat, how to stand up for their needs and what to do if they have a reaction
The concerns and risks will differ, depending on the age of your child. When they are young, unable to communicate properly or still at the age when they put everything in their mouth, they will obviously need more supervision. This can make you on high alert for every event, which is perfectly natural. Try to talk to people about your worries, ask people to eat only at the table and be mindful about washing or wiping their hands and face before handling your child.
As they get older, it is about finding the balance between keeping them safe and included, as well as helping them advocate for themselves. Your child’s safety is always the number one priority but the more you can educate and support others to help you, the easier it becomes for everyone.
Here are five simple rules we always follow:
Take safe food, just in case
Always read the labels as ingredients change
Carry lots of baby wipes to clean surfaces and hands
If you are unsure, don’t let them eat it
Always keep medication on you
What are your top tips?