Talk Time

Talk Time

There is an amazing phenomenon that takes place in our food allergy world. A parent can advocate to a large room of people, inspire them to be part of the solution, and make an astounding difference. Place this parent in a small room face-to-face with a care giver or teacher and their tongue and brain lose all power.

We can speak to Senators, lawmakers, and decision makers, but as soon as the conversation gets personal about our own child, everything changes. Emotion, fear, and concern burst onto center stage. I believe this is the greatest challenge many food allergy parents face.

The good news is that with a little pre-planning, talking to care givers or teachers can provide a powerful opportunity to lay the path for strong, caring communication and new allies.

Step One: Be Honest With Yourself. Truthfully ask yourself if you think you might find yourself tongue tied, frustrated, or upset. If so, bring along a reliable family member, fellow food allergy parent, or a patient advocate. This person can speak up if you need them and help you remember the conversation.

Step Two: Write it Down. Write down the three most important points or topics you want to cover – and then prepare to deliver them. For example, if you are about to work with a new babysitter, your list of topics might be reaction prevention, responding to an emergency, and family policies. Underneath each heading, write bullets points of information to share. This is your conversation road map. For example, on reaction prevention you might consider points such as refraining from eating allergens before arriving at your house to babysit; not bringing outside foods, lotions, or beverages into your house; and only serving pre-approved foods.

Step Three: Offer Educational Materials. Educating someone else about food allergies can feel overwhelming. Providing written materials creates an opportunity for your care giver to read over the information privately and write down questions he or she may have. She can also use these materials as a reference. Include copies of action plans and emergency phone numbers.

Step Four: Set Goals. Understand what your goal is and clearly state this at the beginning of your conversation, such as, “I would like to explain how to care for my child, who has food allergies. My goal is for us to partner in her health and well-being. Please ask as many questions as you like. I hope we can have an open and honest conversation.”

Step Five: Simply Listen. It’s critical to pay attention. If your caregiver is overwhelmed, confused, or simply not getting it, ask about and listen to his or her concerns. This is the area where emotions can explode. As parents, nothing panics us more than fearing our child’s care giver is pushing back or “not getting it.” This is the moment to step back and listen.

Step Six: Be Supportive. Caregivers can get just as overwhelmed as we do! Offer your support, time, and additional materials if needed. Your willingness to be supportive sets the tone of cooperation and team work!

The bottom line to communication with care givers is to keep emotions in check and remain matter of fact as you focus on your child or loved one. It’s okay to go home and vent – privately. Most of all, don’t forget the support you can find with your local food allergy community and FAACT. It truly takes a village.

About the Author
Caroline Moassessi is the author of the food allergy and asthma blog, Gratefulfoodie. She is a co-group leader and co-founder of the Northern Nevada Asthma and Food Allergy Education Group. She was the lead advocate for the stock epinephrine law in Nevada. Caroline presented the need for epinephrine legislation at the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) alongside NCSL president, Senator Debbie Smith.

Caroline currently sits on the American Lung Association (ALA) National Social Media Work group and is the regional Advocacy Chair, past National Advocacy Work Group member, and past Secretary/Treasurer for the ALA of the Southwest region. She is also past chair of the Board of Directors for the American Lung Association in Northern Nevada and a founding member of the National Allergy and Anaphylaxis Council.

Caroline shares allergen-safe recipes monthly on her local ABC affiliate network and works as a food allergy liaison with her local school district. In addition to contributing to Allergic Living Magazine, she speaks at various conferences and events nationally to help raise food allergy and clean air awareness.

Caroline has a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management and has traveled the world as a trainer in this industry. She lives in Reno with her husband and two children, who have food allergies and asthma.