Help kids with food allergies enjoy the holidays

Written by: Cate White

Helping kids with allergies enjoy the holidays

The holidays are upon us, and with the holidays come family gatherings, tidings of good cheer and food—lots and lots of food. Everywhere one turns there are cocoa and cookies and fruitcake—oh, my!

For some, this time of year, and the many delicacies that come with it, is welcomed. But if you have a child with a food allergy it is a total nightmare. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want others to suffer just because my child can’t eat something, but sometimes I wish we celebrated with movies or cards or activities rather than food. It’s something everyone can enjoy rather than be excluded from. As my child has gotten older it’s definitely gotten easier to navigate the holidays in regards to sweats and treats, but it’s certainly not without bumps in the road. 

Here are seven simple steps to help you navigate this month (and heck, you’ve already made it through Thanksgiving so pat yourself on the back). 

Now, full disclosure, my oldest has celiac disease so should he ingest a food he shouldn’t eat he will not go into anaphylactic shock. I 100% realize that a food allergy is obviously a lot more stressful, to say the least. Still, he reacts with vomiting for 12 hours and no parent I know likes to deal with vomit, and no eight-year-old I know likes to vomit, so we are vigilant in avoiding gluten. On to the steps: 

1. Help. As in, ask for help. You can’t do this alone, so make sure you reach out to the other parents in the class and understand who’s doing what for each holiday get together – this way you can more easily move on to step 2.

2. Outsource. You don’t have to do all of this baking yourself. There are dedicated nut-free bakeries, gluten-free bakeries, and all sorts of amazing bakeries in the city. Use them! They even deliver.

3. Listen to your child. Sometimes he might want to skip an event (if it doesn’t mean skipping school I’m okay with this) or go a little late to miss the cookie-decorating part. If it means avoiding a severe allergic reaction and keeping your kid happy then it’s ok to change up tradition or make your own new ones.

4. Involve your child in creating those new traditions, be it an outing, a food she wants to attempt to make herself that works for her diet, or a new restaurant she wants to try that you know would be safe. Help your child lead the way.

5. Dedicate. Meaning, dedicate a single day to knock out of all your allergy- and diet-friendly baking (so that you can spend the rest of the holiday season prepared and enjoying the season, rather than scrambling). Also dedicate a day to just your child. As in tip No. 4, give your child a day where food is not a thing or an issue that comes up on his radar—just fun and coziness and holiday joy.

6. Alternatives. As in alternatives to food. Our society revolves around food, whether we like it or not, but little by little classrooms and other social gatherings are changing to focus on group get-togethers and crafts rather than just food. Pinterest has a ton of great ideas for things to do at classroom holiday parties that are not food-related, such as tree-decorating contests, snowflake decorating, snowman poofs and even indoor ice skating.

7. Yay! You made it. Now pour yourself a glass of Champagne (or gluten-free, vegan eggnog) and toast 2018!

Related articles:

Going gluten-free: one parent's perspective

Caring for a child with asthma

Help with identifying food intolerances

The NPN blog gives voice to our members' thoughts about parenting in the city, and the views expressed don't necessarily reflect our own. Want to write for us? Email laura@npnparents.org with your topic ideas.

Posted on December 06, 2016 at 10:49 AM