Do you have any tips on inclusion for my child that doesn’t have food allergies? So much of our lives revolve around the two that do have allergies and I think the third may be feeling left out.
Do I ever. First, a little story for you. When Kid Four was about 4 or 5 years old, we were all at the dinner table. Kid One was GAPs at that point, Kid Two has severe food allergies, and Kid Three is low/no sugar. She looked at her brothers and said “You guys are so lucky. I wish I special food like you.”
Instantly, they all shouted in unison “NO!!” Kid One piped up and told her they wished they could have anything they wanted like her.
Isn’t that interesting? Children perceive things so differently. It’s possible that your child without food allergies is feeling the same way Kid Four did. All of that attention and energy was going into her brothers, and they were being fussed over at mealtimes and she wanted the same thing.
There are a few things we can do as parents to help bridge the gap.
Set aside special time for the no allergy (NA) child. Give this time a cool name, and be consistent with your time slot. We don’t want to let them down. During this time, have something that’s just for the two of you. It could be building a new hobby together, puzzle time, or something else. Even as they get older, continue this time, knowing that the activity may change. This can also include taking them out to eat at a restaurant their siblings can’t eat at.
Have a special plate/cup for the NA child. DYLbug has cool customizable plates. This could give the NA child something special to look forward to at meal times.
If you make a BIG deal out of free-from foods, make sure you do the same for the NA child. Let me expand on that. I’d often make a BIG deal about how epic it was that Kid Two could finally have XYZ. Whilst his siblings would take these little things for granted, he didn’t. On the flip side however, this can make the others feel left out. I know, it’s a double edged sword.
So, if you make a big deal about free-from cupcakes, make a big deal out of a new flavour of traditional cupcakes to keep everyone feeling included.
The alternative is to get everyone excited about the free-from item. Once the free-from kids get pumped up, turn to the NA kid and remind them of how often they get to have this, but they’ve NEVER had it together. How cool is that?! You guys can finally eat this together. Now everyone is pumped and you didn’t have to cook/buy two versions.
Have your NA kid come up with fun food ideas/meals/experiences they’d like to share with their free-from sibling. Maybe they’ve never had tacos together and you can come up with a safe way to pull it off. The NA kid can also help prepare the meal. They’ll feel incredibly included. It’s important to note though, don’t over-use this option. It’s easy to go from excited sibling to servant sibling.
My final tip is to make sure that your NA kid has a strong sense of self and healthy independence. The hard truth is that any child with a medical condition will receive more attention than a sibling without a medical condition. Also make sure the NA child deeply understands that their siblings’ allergy is not their responsibility. Obviously there are house rules to follow, but you don’t want to put the NA kid in a situation where they might make a mistake, harm their sibling, and carry an immense amount of guilt about it.
Overall, you’re going to struggle with this. You’ll work hard at it, and you won’t be perfect. That is A-OK. All we can do is try to include everyone, and make sure they know they’re all loved the same, even if we have to put more time and energy into a sibling.
Wishing you all the best on this!
~The Allergy Chef
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