Preparing your child for growing up is difficult. Parents struggle over when the right time is to have “the talk” and what exactly to say. When you are a parent of a child with severe food allergies, “the talk” becomes a matter of life and death.
In many schools in Michigan, children start health education in fourth grade. Whether you agree or not, the government has decided that children 9 and 10 years of age should be informed about how their bodies change during puberty. These lessons can open up the discussion about boy/girl relationships and dating. This may be the perfect time to talk to your child about extending their food allergy precautions to their interactions with the opposite sex.
For many fourth graders, dating or “going together” means holding hands at recess and maybe sitting together at lunch. It’s a far cry from actual dating that you see in high school. However, there are the occasional stolen kisses in every grade. As innocent as they may be, a peanut butter kiss on a peanut allergic child is never just innocent. Even a small peck can cause difficulty breathing in an allergic child. So, how do you teach your child about the dangers of kissing? (see video at side of page)
If your child can remember having a severe food allergic reaction in the past, ask them to recall it. Tell them that kissing someone that has eaten their allergen can transfer it to their mouth. This could cause a reaction like the one they recall. To avoid this happening, they should make sure to tell their boyfriend/girlfriend about their allergies. Ask them not to eat their allergen when they plan to be around them. If your child is older, the conversation could get more specific such as, “I am really allergic to peanuts. So, I can’t kiss you if you have eaten anything with peanuts in it the same day we are hanging out.”
Regardless of how your child plans on handling the situation, it all starts with communication. The more people that know about your child’s allergy the better. If the whole class knows that your child has a peanut allergy, the kissing conversation will be much easier for your child to have with their boyfriend/girlfriend. If your child is about to become the recipient of an impromptu kiss, he/she has a great excuse to lean back and avoid it.
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