When Embracing Positivity is Hard

When Embracing Positivity is Hard

by Kathy Thornburg

I am all in favor of promoting positivity when it comes to living with food allergies. I don't want for my son to feel his life is limited or that he has less worth because of his medical and dietary needs. That is why I strive to have fun when teaching him about allergies and why I do my best to instill within him a healthy relationship with food not centered on fear. You can cook meals together and make fun shapes with your food. You can (and should) talk about food allergies and how to stay safe, but there may still be days your child comes to you wishing life was different. Recently, I heard my son (age 3 1/2) express sadness that he couldn't eat what other kids were eating during snack time at church. He has told me how much he wants to eat the foods he is allergic to someday, and he is clearly already old enough to understand that living with food allergies is not always fun. Each time these situations come up, I try to resist the natural reaction of reminding him of the positives. It is true there are positives to food allergies - although outweighed by the negatives. Many parents say they believe their children will grow up to become more compassionate towards the needs of others, more knowledgeable about a variety of foods, healthier in how they eat, have useful cooking skills, and the list goes on. 

However, I think when your child approaches you with their raw, negative emotions in regards to their food allergies, it is better to focus on listening and simply let them be open about their feelings. If their emotions are always met with an encouragement to stay positive, they may begin to believe their very real and understandable thoughts and feelings are not welcome, valid, or normal for people in their situation. It can be a challenge not to try to find an instant fix for the problem in front of you, but the best results often come when you listen and offer comfort. After your child explains what is bothering them, try to repeat their feelings back to them to show you heard them and to give your child the chance to correct you if you misunderstood. Follow it up with a big hug. Find times in your normal, daily routine to celebrate the positives you see all around you, such as a grandparent who makes sure to keep the cookie jar stocked with safe treats or the friend who joins your child at the allergy lunch table at school. Your child will learn by your actions and reactions in all areas of life, including handling food allergies.

Live out the positivity you want them to embrace, and embrace them when the negativity naturally occurs.

Kathy Thornburg is a food allergy mom, who is constantly finding creative ways to manage her son's food allergies. You can follow their journey as Food Allergy Jams on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They also host giveaways, product reviews, and more at