I hear from so many readers this time of year who just need to vent. Reports of disappointment and frustration frequently get voiced over extended family that isn’t supportive – or, in extreme cases, is totally defiant of – a family’s food allergy concerns.
These incidents often center around the holiday table – at a time of year when parent anxiety can be heightened and when all parents put extra pressure on themselves to make the holidays magical for their children. Family gatherings are typically filled with unspoken expectations. Which is why it can be doubly disappointing (and sometimes volatile) when things go wrong.
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you relax and have fun with your extended family and friends as you celebrate this season:
- Educate: Many adults did not grow up knowing a single person with food allergies. What comes off as careless to those of us who live this reality, may simply be a matter of ignorance. A little education may go a long way. If you want to start that process before you arrive, suggest they watch the Discovery Channel documentary, “Emerging Epidemic: Food Allergies in America.”
- Distract and Enjoy: Perhaps you have a history of issues surrounding meals with your food allergies. If you know your family and your food allergies will not mix, don’t forego the time spent together. Maybe you can host or help cook the meal. Maybe you skip the meal and instead all go ice skating or sledding or on the hunt for the best Christmas lights in town. New traditions will forge new memories!
- Be Flexible: When it comes to the meal, we know you cannot compromise on safety. Nor should you. But if you can compromise on other parts of your visit, that may help reduce stress for all. Be flexible when you can.
- Focus on Family: Just remember that family relationships are important. Not just to you but to your children. Try to strengthen that relationship by creating positive memories throughout the year. Having strong family bonds will defuse the anxiety and expectations of the holidays.
For further information about how to navigate family dynamics, please read Food Allergies and Family: Disagreements Not Break-Ups.