Food allergy parents often struggle with how to manage life when they also have children without food allergies. No doubt, it can be daunting to think about how to balance both allergies and no allergies. But rest assured, we hear over and over from parents that they have found their stride in this situation.
You won’t be surprised to hear, as is often the case with food allergies, there’s not one right or wrong way to nurture both food allergic and non-allergic children in one home. Over the years we have heard different approaches parents are taking, and many seem to work well. Let’s explore some things to consider and different thought processes for balancing allergy and non-allergy siblings.
Consider Age & Birth Order
It will be easier to streamline your family’s diet if the allergy-free siblings are toddlers or babies. But if one or more of the children are age four or older, you have communication on your side. Older children are capable of understanding with clear instruction and modeling that food can hurt them or their sibling. Oftentimes kids understand better than adults!
Consider Your “Everyday” Situation
If your non-allergy child goes to school, this a fair time to let them eat what they want outside the home.
If your children are still young and home during the day or if you homeschool your children, you may find less opportunities to let your non-allergy child indulge in their old favorite foods. Think of ways to carve that time out for them, especially if they are older and craving their special treats.
In our house, giving our boys time apart to each enjoy their own treats and activities works well. Sometimes a parent or grandparent takes one of our sons out for one-on-one time. And then we switch it up next time. My kids really look forward to this special time and attention with adults who love them. My non-allergy kiddo loves to get a hamburger at McDonald’s. And my milk allergic son loves having an ice cream date at Target.
“You Can’t Live in a Bubble” Theory
Some allergy parents have a strong opinion that you can’t always keep allergy children away from allergens, and opt to keep their homes running the same way as always. They want their allergy child to learn how to function and maneuver around and mentally cope with a world with food allergens. Not everyone agrees with this sentiment. Some more prefer baby steps to surrounding their child with real world realities. There is no right or wrong answer.
“Non-Allergy Sibling Needs Continuous Exposure” Theory
Others will opt to keep non-allergy children on their regular diet because they are afraid that if they take away high allergens the child will DEVELOP an allergy. Continuous, regular exposure is their goal. Scientifically, I think the verdict is still out on this, but it’s food for thought.
“Milk Is Only For Baby Cows” Theory
I’ve been doing this milk allergy thing long enough to have met a lot of dairy-free friends out there. Many are vegans. Many are vegetarians. Many are dairy-free by choice. Some say milk is for baby cows, not humans.
Some allergy families adopt this same idea and are perfectly content leading all their children on a dairy-free path in life. They find nutritional sources elsewhere in whole foods and supplements.
Find Your Own Balance
It can take awhile to find your groove with balancing non-allergy and food allergy children. You may try one system and find it flops. So it’s important to keep evaluating and tweaking as needed. Kids really are resilient, especially when we model a positive attitude and willingness to accommodate everyone’s needs.
When our second child was born, we were still keeping dairy in the house. Then my oldest had an anaphylactic reaction when I used the wrong cheese. After some serious thought, we cut all dairy from the house and our non-allergy child was not having it, either. Then over the years, we got more comfortable having limited dairy in our home and allowing our youngest to have yogurt and ice cream occasionally as he shows responsibility and care for keeping the house safe.
You will find your balance. Don’t get frustrated…it just takes time and regular adjusting as needed.
Non-Allergy Siblings Become Empathetic Advocates for Special Needs
However you decide to manage your children’s diets with food allergies, there is one silver lining that I think you will find. Non-allergy siblings become amazing advocates for their brother or sister with food allergies. My youngest has always looked out for his older brother. Asking friends to wash hands. Telling neighbors they can’t bring cheese into our yard. Requesting others to not eat nuts while visiting their house. My non-allergy child also shows incredible empathy towards others with special needs, even at the young age of nine.
Not to mention, food allergies have bonded my boys in special ways they otherwise would not experience. I don’t take for granted the positives that have come with being a food allergy family. Hopefully you have gleaned some good ideas and encouragement here about handling siblings of food allergy children.
Please leave a comment and let us know some other ideas for nurturing both allergic and non-allergic children in one home.