Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Parenting Pointers: Parenting Children with Allergies

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It's in our nature as parents to want to protect our children, but when we have children with severe allergies it's easy to become what experts call a "helicopter parent" -  hovering overhead to ensure safety. But it can actually hinder children and hurt the lives of parent and child.

I had a chance to interview Haleh Rabizdeh, renowned parenting expert, and parent of a child with severe allergies to foods. She is also the author of Little Patient Big Doctor: One Mother's Journey.
1.  When it comes to children will allergies, what is a helicopter parent?
Do you do any of these? Then you are a helicopter parent to an allergic child. 1. You get anxious and won't let your child touch something that they are allergic to even if your child is not contact allergic. 2. You make your child carry his epi-pen with him even thought the school and adults around him have one. 3. You make sure that everywhere your child goes, everyone is aware of his allergy and have made plans to accomodate him.  4. You give a blow by blow of your child's allergies and how they should be handled when they go on a playdate which is 5 minutes away from your house.
2.  What effect does helicopter parenting have on children?
For an allergic child not only does it take away their independence, it makes them feel weak and frail and in extreme cases children begin to wonder not only why they were made like this but why they are even here. Also children learn to feel and act entitled and think that everyone should accommodate their every whim.
3.  What risks are ok for parents to allow for kids with allergies?  
If you ask a doctor, no risk is worth it because any allergic reaction can lead to death. If you ask a parent, we need to take risks of exposure to have our children live normal lives. For me that means, I don't worry about crumbs on the table. I let my child sit next to his friends who are eating things he is allergic to. Sometimes, I don't know every ingredient of a food that he eats- 99% of the time that's not an issue. Is it a risk? Yes. But I need to balance it against my child living a normal life.
4.  How can parents identify if they are helicopter parents, and how can they change?
Being honest with yourself it hard. Because when you are being very careful, you just see yourself as doing right by your child and anything less is simply playing with your child's life and being irresponsible. But if you are thinking about your child's allergies most of the time and think of allergies when you think of your child, these are two big signs to stepping back. The very first step to change is accepting that you can not provide 100% safety to your child and your child's life is not in your hands. The next step is understanding that your primary role is to raise a well balanced child.

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