Strategies for children with food allergies.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Is your child anxious about the food they eat?  Does your child have food allergies? Has your child has had an anaphylactic reaction before?

I have read recently about parents being concerned about their children’s fears and their child’s growing anxieties about food.  This article looks at how to support your child during these periods.  

Anxiety can appear at any age. Anxiety can be acute or chronic.  Anxiety can be momentary or last for a long period of time.  If your child is experiencing anxiety that prevents them from taking part in their usual routine. Or if the anxiety is ongoing and consumes their thoughts and they will not or cannot listen to you (when you try to calm their anxiety) then it may be time to see a professional.  

For acute or once in a while anxiety you could try some of the methods outlined below.

Realise that the fear is real for them.  They may have experienced an anaphylactic reaction before.  They may have noticed your reaction when you have seen them touch or eat an ‘unsafe’ food and this sticks with them.  

Fear for children with an allergy is a good thing. A ‘healthy’ fear may protect them and also helps them to be cautious. 

The key is that the feeling of fear which can lead to anxiety doesn’t control them.  They should be able to take part in activities and want to do things with their friends.    

Most children when feeling anxious will respond to acknowledgement of their feelings.  

The fear or anxiety is real for them and they need to have this feeling for them to be safe.  It is not helpful to say to them - “it’s ok, just eat it. I’ve checked it’s ok”, “that’s silly - you know you can eat that - just stop it, stop thinking about it and just eat”, just get over it. Don’t even think about it”. 

Acknowledge their fear. 
The more you are able to talk about their feeling, the closer you may get to understanding the real reason behind their fear.  
If this is the ninth time your child is raising the same thing then it may be because they haven’t had their feelings acknowledged.  Or the real issue still hasn’t been discovered or properly resolved. It isn’t always convenient to have a chat about the fear but then simply agree, don’t argue - try to come to a compromise that suits at the time.  So if your child has a fear or anxiety reaction you may want to just let them know you have noticed.  ‘I see/hear that you are afraid to eat that.’ ‘I know you are being careful and that is good.’

Always try to give options. Even with younger children, give a choice so they feel in control of the situation.  ‘Would you prefer to go home? Or …..’ This helps them to problem solve and be more resilient. 

My 13 year old, before going out the other night to a friend’s house, said to me “I’m really nervous, I don’t want to eat anything ‘bad’ at the barbecue, I don’t know I’m just scared that I will have chicken (his allergic to) or something.”  
This chat started to scare me! He hasn’t ever raised this sort of thing before so strongly. And I could have said “Oh well just don’t go then, stay home (where you’re safe), Oh don’t be stupid, you’ve been to his house before” -  but I remained calm.  I checked with him, You have your epipen (he hasn’t had to use it and he is afraid of needles) I will give you some Anitihistamine to take with you as well, if you are having the start of a reaction drink the whole bottle, (it is a 20ml bottle). You have your phone you can phone me if you think you’ve eaten something that is starting to give you a reaction it isn’t far for me to come and get you.  Then I added after giving him his bag, “You have been to this boy’s house before and eaten there”.  He replied “yes, but that was just for pizza now it’s meat”.  I said “that’s okay if there is meat there will probably be rolls so you can just have a roll and salad or a plain roll”. 

By giving options your child learns they have control of what they eat. Even if it’s limited.  I also said to him “Would you like to take something safe from home that you can eat instead?” The more your child feels in control of what they can eat, the more self confident they will be. It is not helpful to let them have a  pity party every time they haven’t been catered for. Sure acknowledge that it doesn’t feel great but remind them that there is food at home. 

My son was just fine when I picked him up 3 hours later.  He was so excited and explained all the food he ate and that it was good.

Kids with allergies need to trust their instincts.  It is unhelpful to fob them off and tell them their feelings are unjustified. They need to believe in themselves and be resilient. Try to build up their self esteem by listening to them and acknowledging their feelings or fears.  

My son has mentioned to me before that sometimes if food is put in front of him and he doesn’t know if it is safe or not he can sometimes feel his throat itching just by smelling it.  I told him to trust that.

I have also found it useful to take my teenage son out to eat.  He is afraid of asian food due to his ANA reaction if he eats cashews and pistachios, I took him out once and he just kept saying ‘what if they put it in the dish’.  I showed him some safe options and types of things he can order on the menu.  I got him to order them and he clearly said to them ‘make sure there is no nuts or chicken in the dish as I am allergic’. 

Kids with food allergies need to be confident.  They build up confidence when they are taken seriously and believed. There is no reason for a child with food allergies to be ashamed.  We are responsible for them while they are young but we need to give them the skills to be responsible for themselves too.  My son doesn’t feel left out or singled out but he has had to learn to speak up for himself and say I really can’t have that ‘……’

If you have a specific question related to your child’s anxieties and food allergies or you want to find out more strategies to build their self confidence please email me. 

I would like to know what has helped your child with their food anxieties. Leave your comments below. 

Prompting Motivation.. in a child.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Do you have a child who doesn’t want to accept something?

Do you want your child to do something but they really don’t want to?

Do you want your child to be motivated about something but they really don’t see the point? 

There are times when action needs to be taken:

A child may complain once or twice about something (it may be music practice, sports practice, homework or learning) but if after complaining they can get on with it, it is probably a good sign that the issue may resolve itself with time and not need any intervention. 

A child may complain all the time about the same thing and it affects any discussion or they refuse to discuss anything to do with the problem or task. This is when it may be necessary to It may be time to think about taking action.

A child complains all the time, uses strong negative language and it is affecting their participation in or performance in the task. It’s time to take action. 

TIPS to taking action and getting your child on board with a decision or motivated to follow through with a decision. 

  1. Don’t threaten them with the decision.  “You have to see someone because YOU aren’t coping or improving and YOUR attitude is terrible”  rather try to use non threatening language and acknowledge the difficulties they may be experiencing, “I hear what you’re saying about having difficulty understanding your teacher.  There are other options.” Use language that sounds like you want to help. “Somethings don’t get fixed by themselves and I don’t like to see you struggle.” “It may help to get a tutor, I don’t really know what a tutor can do but maybe we can meet one just for you to chat to.” “Wouldn’t it be a good feeling to improve in this area.”   
  2. Do try to explain what you think the benefits of a decision could be.  Be patient it could take a couple of weeks for them to come to terms with trying/trialling something.
  3. Give options, offer your child choices.  This is a key factor to getting a child motivated.  Nothing is worse than feeling forced.  By offering a child a choice, they feel empowered and are more likely to have a positive feeling going with their decision and commitment for follow through will be higher.  You will see in the story below how this was done. There are many ways to offer choice to children.  Even if it is just choice of time.
  4. Always give more options, an exit strategy which can be a measurable timeframe, outcome or expectation.  Again there is an example in the story below. 
  5. Always be positive and sure and confident about your decision. If you aren’t sure, they aren’t going to go along with it. If they do decide to go with the new action and try something different use  “imagine if ..’ statements to visualise what positive outcomes their decision could bring. 
  6. Praise them for making the difficult decision and for putting the effort in. 

My son, who has just started high school this year, is really not enjoying a subject at school. It started by the second class he had in this subject.  
He complained about his teacher.  He complained that he can’t understand her when she speaks. He complains that he just has to copy from a book or off the board for most of the subject. He complains, groans and moans about this subject anytime he sees it on his school timetable.  
Over two terms, it’s developed from just complaining, to him saying “I hate this subject, I hate it!” “I don’t see the point in this subject, it’s so dumb.” “I just want to drop this subject.” 
His marks in the tests are okay but no where near where his marks are in other subjects.  

Over the past two terms we told him (sometimes what we want to do to help actually may be heard by our child as a threat) we’ll get him a tutor. He was not open to discussing getting a tutor for in his words “a stupid subject, why bother?”

Two weeks ago, I had reached that point of taking action.  My son was not only complaining but developing a negative mindset and having difficulty learning in that subject.  My action was finally to make contact with a couple of tutors.  

I emailed two tutors and explained what I was looking for briefly.  The tutors got back to me and I told them I would like my son to meet with them first so he could choose who he wants to work with. I also wanted them to explain to my son what he could expect from tutoring. They agreed.  
Only at this time did I tell my son. 
I told him that he could meet with a tutor on Thursday or Friday afternoon (he had the choice of which day).  I booked in for the one I liked the most and kept the second tutor as a backup. 
Before going to meet the tutor I assured my son that there was no commitment! It was just a 20 minute meeting, so he could hear what the person could do for him and just see what she was like. All he had to do was meet them, he did not have to go to tutoring after that if he did not want to.   

I did explain to him that there were two possible tutors and that I was taking him to this one because she is a teacher and the other was a male uni student so he could meet with the male at another time if he wanted (again another choice).

He got himself ready that afternoon of the meeting.  He took along his book and met the tutor.  The tutor was totally different to his current teacher, she is young and speaks clearly.  The tutor sat and listened to his complaints and looked at what he wanted to show her and what he has been doing.  She acknowledged that there was a lot of writing and explained what she had done for her students.  

My son left that appointment with a two hour tutoring session booked.  
I thanked him for at least taking the first step to meet her and how proud I was that he got himself prepared for the meeting.  I also acknowledged and thanked him for wanting to give it a try. We spoke about giving it a try and doing a few sessions and see if his test marks improve. (There is a measurable).  We spoke about what he liked about the tutor (reinforcing his decision), “I think you have made a good choice”.  We also joked about what would happen if the marks improved because of the tutoring, “Imagine if..” 

He is finally excited and he said “I can’t wait to love this subject.”

I'm imagining a positive follow up to this story so look out for it in the coming weeks!

With a little help from ... mum'stube

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

As a parent I have to admit I don’t know everything and my children know it.  

My son got given some loom bands from some friends, about a month ago.  He asked me a few times for a loom and bands of his own.  I resisted the urge to spend money on a fad, and the fact that the bands were going to get stuck in my vacuum cleaner because they would find their way to the floor, like the Lego and Nerf bullets I've bought before.  

Then a few days ago he was looming with his fingers and called me for a bandaid.  It was minor but nothing like a little guilt to make resistance crumble and convince me he really needed a loom.  The next day he had a loom and 600 bands of his very own (which are now distributed equally between the floor, the table and a plastic bag). 

The loom came with very limited instructions plus my limited patience and interest in looming equals my advice to “ask the neighbour how to do it”. The neighbour wasn’t at home, so he came and asked me again.  Then I reminded him about Youtube. 
After a few minutes I went to the room and found him crying, “I can’t do it”.  Turns out he was trying to follow instructions on Youtube on how to make an easter egg out of the bands.  
Time I stepped in to help... so I explained to him that he needed to find something easier to do first.  Just to practice and then he could make the easter egg. 
30 minutes later he came out with a necklace. Not bad for a 6 year old who taught himself.

So what have you told your child to look up in the last week? 

3 Easy ways to connect with your child

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Being a parent is busy! It can be a full time job and that’s not including working outside the home and the chores that need doing around the house.  
How can we connect with our children or make our children feel important when we are so busy?  Hopefully these few things may help you to connect with your child in just a few minutes a day.  Some may seem bizarre but have fun trying them out anyway.

I have three boys and most conversations or experiences they want to tell me about revolve around superheroes or gaming. Being a mum to three boys also means I might hear three different versions of the same thing... and sometimes all at once too.   Here are some things that have helped me deal with the times when they really want me to listen.

1)      To really connect with your child you need eye contact when they are talking, even if for a few seconds. It’s easy to say ‘ah-ha’ or ‘mmm’ when listening to your child while you’re busy doing something, but we know we don't hear as well when we are doing two things at once.  If you know the conversation is going to take a while say, I'll be ready to sit and listen to you in a few minutes and make sure you come back to them.  

2)      If you really can’t actively listen and look them in the eye at that moment, or you are busy with a chore, ask them to be involved by saying something like,  “I’m busy at the moment with .... cooking, cleaning or doing the laundry, ... it would be great if you could help me out and then we can sit together and you can tell me all about it”.  Normally, if it is important they will stick around, or the idea of work will make them disappear. This gives them a choice.

3)      If your child is constantly looking to tell you about something or wanting your attention as soon as you move out of their sight, I would recommend trying to have a box where they can write or draw a picture about what it is they want to say.  Let them know they can open the box at a preset time and go through what’s been on their mind during the day.   It may be a time before bed or at preset times in the day. 

So, if you want to connect with your child they do need undivided attention even if it is just a few minutes but you can give them alternatives if you are busy by getting them to be involved with what you are doing, like preparing a meal. If that is not possible rather be honest with them and tell them to come back in 10 minutes. 

The dog-child

Thursday, March 6, 2014

It took months of nagging, researching and negotiating but we now have one.  

Some families begin with a ‘dog child’ some families get a ‘dog child’ when their children grow up.  The latter is my experience.  My 11 year old really wanted a puppy so the search began.  I thought it was a good idea to teach him responsibility and he did make all these promises of taking care of the puppy.  It felt like a long time while we waited for her to be old enough to leave her own mother and finally we picked her up and brought her to our house, her new home. 

I call her my “dog child” because really from the minute she came into our home she stole our hearts.  She is playful, alert and definitely considered one of the family.
 It’s been 8 months now and she still runs to greet us when we arrive home at the end of a long day.  Our boys used to do this when they were younger, although it has been replaced with the occasional sentence, “Oh, you’re home, when did you get here?” as they look up from their iPad.  Our puppy also follows me around as I move between rooms, sits at the door when I leave the house and will want to sit or lay right next to me at any given opportunity.  I remember that too with my son as a toddler, wanting to play when I was talking on the phone or walking behind me or holding my leg when I left the room.  
The main difference with my ‘dog child’ is that I can throw toys and she runs to fetch them and she doesn’t need as long for playtime, she stops eventually and compared with my sons she sleeps way better and way more.

I tend to think maybe the attachment to my ‘dog child’ started like most attachments through a need. The puppy needed me to make sure it was fed and comforted.  Similarly to when I bought my newborns home, they needed to be fed and bathed and comforted.  

My son stood by his side of the bargain, almost, I took on the feeding responsibilities and he does the picking up of mess and takes her for the occasional walk.  I think he really wanted a soft toy to lay on his lap and be stroked.  

I found myself getting up in the wee hours just to make sure it wasn’t her whimpering.  I made extra sure she was comfortable in her bed and in the early days of having her at home got up early before the boys just to make sure they did not startle her with loud noise.

It is hard work but she rewards us with unconditional love, those round puppy dog eyes that say sorry when she knows she has done something wrong.  There are definitely ups and downs with my ‘dog child’ but she fills our lives and we can’t imagine life without her.

Do you have a pet that is part of the family? Did you begin your family with a pet or did you get pressure from your child for a pet? We’d love to hear how your pet has changed your family and any therapeutic effects your pet may have had. 

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