Food Allergy Education Using Role Playing
With a little guidance and imagination, you can help your child to understand his or her food allergies. When your child feels left out of a social situation or unhappy about an experience at school, what should you do to help? How can you help them to understand that their peanut allergy is something they can manage?
First and foremost, provide an atmosphere of understanding. Help them to feel comfortable in coming to you to share their concerns about their food allergy experience. One very productive way to accomplish this is through role playing. Your child will feel better prepared if you role play and rehearse with them. It helps them to know the language to use for common situations that may arise, such as when a friend asks them about their allergies or when someone offers them food in a social situation. Food allergy education using role playing will assist your child in responding better to real life situations involving food. Some of the topics might include:
- Why trading food with others can be dangerous
- How to recognize the signs/symptoms of an allergic reaction
- How to respond if someone offers them food with unknown ingredients
- How to ask people what the ingredients are in the food they are served
- How to tell an adult, right away, if they eat something that contains the allergenic food
- How to read food labels carefully to be sure there are no food allergens
- What to do when attending a birthday party where food is served your child cannot eat
- What to do if they are teased or bullied and why it is okay to tell an adult about it
- What is an EpiPen® or Auvi-Q™and why their school keeps a supply of them
Through role playing, you can capture your child’s attention with a creative, fun approach to an important life experience. If you project a calm, matter-of-fact approach to allergy management, focusing on safety routines and how to use coping strategies, your child will benefit from the underlying message that food allergy is manageable. Positive attention and praise for your child’s problem solving will also help them to identify their strengths and increase their self-confidence.
Contribute to your food-allergic child’s ability to manage his/her food allergy by being a good listener. Empathetic listening helps to validate your child’s feelings. Knowing that their feelings are understood is a comfort and an important step to ownership and self-management.
Take action to educate others about food allergies. Relatives, school personnel, friends and other parents may not have the awareness needed to really understand food allergies. Peanut allergy is one of the most prevalent food allergies among children. Share your resources and some of your role playing techniques to further equip them with positive ways to respond. Provide examples of simple steps to take to include children with food allergies in social situations.
But remember, children take their cues on how to handle challenging situations from their parents. Be supportive and protective, but empower your child to be self-managing and take ownership of their food allergies.