[For more detailed information on each stage, check out The 6 Stages of Allergy Parenting Explained post after reading this one]
Have you ever noticed that so much of the parenting guidance out there is focused on what children are going through at each stage of their development? While that's helpful information for parents to know, it doesn't tell parents what THEIR parenting tasks are for each stage of their child's development.
That's where Ellen Galinsky's work comes in! Her research led to the development of the Six Stages of Parenthood, which focuses on how PARENTS develop at the same time their child develops.
This framework helps parents understand if they're focusing on the appropriate tasks associated with their child's stage of development, are falling behind, or pushing too fast too quickly.
As with any guidelines, they're just that - guidelines. They're not hard and fast rules. However, I think we can all agree that parenting is hard, so any helpful guidance is welcome!
The Six Stages of Allergy Parenting
Adapted from Ellen Galinsky's work, licensed family therapist and founder of this Food Allergy Counselor Directory and website, Tamara Hubbard developed the Six Stages of Allergy Parenting after recognizing that allergy parents could benefit from parenting guidance specific to allergy parenting and the associated emotional aspects.
This purpose of this framework is primarily to offer guidance related to the emotional and mindset aspects of allergy parenting, which is often overlooked in allergy parenting guidance currently available. It essentially offers parents a framework to help them develop their mindset and parenting choices for each stage of parenting, which directly impacts their child's ability to learn how to live confidently with allergies. While overall allergy management skills/goals are noted for each phase, the guidance is heavily infused with information related to the allergy emotional tasks helpful for parents to be aware of and/or develop during each stage. (For more information on what to teach your child at each stage of their development, check out this Allergic Living article).
How to Use this Chart:
The information below explains each column in more depth:
How This Framework Helps Allergy Parents:
The Six Stages of Allergy Parenting offers allergy parents a framework to help them better understand how to parent an allergic child throughout the child, teen and young adult years. More specifically, this guidance helps parents with:
Want More Specific Information on Each Stage?
Stay tuned for more detailed information for each of the six stages of allergy parenting, including specific parenting tasks and potential roadblocks to watch out for. (FAC on IG: @FoodAllergyCounselor, FAC on FB: /FoodAllergyCounselor, and FAC on Twitter: @FACounselor).
[Edited to add the new post: The 6 Stages of Allergy Parenting Explained]
If you want to make sure you don't miss more of this kind of psychosocial information, be sure to Subscribe to The Food Allergy Counselor emails (at the bottom of the homepage or via the pop-up), as well as the FAC social media accounts. And THE BONUS for subscribing to the FAC emails? You'll get the free, 3-page Allergy Anxiety & Overwhelm Mini -Guide.
Think This Chart Will Help Others?
Think this chart will help others you know, or your patients? Please feel free to share it as long as the copyright information is visible.
And if you're needing more allergy-related psychosocial support, don't forget to check out the Food Allergy Counselor Directory, the Exploring Food Allergy Families podcast, the Food Allergy Behavioral Health Resource section, and the allergy-specific therapeutic worksheets.
I'm very excited about this announcement. Not only does it relate to topics I am passionate about, but it's also a resource that I think will be enjoyable to listen to and learn from.
So why did I create this podcast?
Well, you'll have to listen to the brief preview episode to hear that answer!
But I'll share why I think you'll enjoy this new podcast....
Exploring Food Allergy Families is a podcast with real talk, relatable conversations, and practical tips focused on navigating the impacts that food allergies have on families, mental health, and emotional well-being. Building resilience and an empowered mindset are key pillars of this podcast.
With episode lengths of 30 minutes or less, they're perfect to listen to while going for a run, walking the dog, or enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning (or wine at night)!
This podcast aims to share and explore:
Also, for episodes focused on skill-building and strategies, there will be additional follow up resources available on this website for those topics, should you want to apply and practice the concepts discussed.
So there you have it! Check out the first episode - a short preview and introduction, which explains why I decided this podcast was so important.
Then be sure to subscribe to Exploring Food Allergy Families (wherever you listen to podcasts) so you don't miss future episodes!
Trust me, you won't want to miss any episodes, especially the next one, Exploring Food Allergy Dads' Experiences, where I will share insights from the recent survey, relevant guidance/tips, and chat with one of these amazing food allergy dads!
So, let's explore food allergy families together!
Podcast Episode site: https://exploringfoodallergyfamilies.buzzsprout.com/
Podcast Info: www.FoodAllergyFamilies.com (or Podcast section on this website )
- Your feedback is a gift that I truly value, so please feel free to share thoughts, topic ideas,
or feedback on whether topics explored on the podcast have been helpful. -
Those of us who are food allergy-knowledgeable licensed behavioral healthcare providers will inevitably get calls from parents seeking guidance on helping their child with food allergy-related anxiety at some point.
Signs of anxiety don't always present in kids the same as they do in adults. So what leads these parents to believe their child has elevated levels of anxiety? Some common reports are:
"My child will no longer eat at restaurants when we go out to eat as a family."
If you or your child exhibits elevated levels of anxiety that are negatively impacting daily life, I highly recommend seeking guidance from a licensed clinical counseling professional, preferably a food allergy-knowledgeable one. But even if you're not experiencing elevated levels, these five general anxiety reminders for parents may still be useful to incorporate to address and manage developing anxiety.
1. Aim to manage the anxiety, not completely get rid of it
Wouldn't it be great if we never felt anxious or worried? Sure, but that's not a realistic goal for anyone, so don't try to remove everything that produces anxiety for your child. The best way you can help your child navigate anxiety is to help them learn to accept its presence, understand it, and develop skills to manage it. Part of understanding anxiety is not only learning about the thoughts and feelings, but also the physiological sensations often associated with the emotions. By gaining this understanding, it allows for more personalized skills that will help your child manage their own anxiety. Focusing on managing the anxiety (rather than avoiding it) often demystifies these thoughts and feelings, which can lead to decreased frequency of anxiety over time. It's also important to remember that anxious feelings can also be a positive tool, reminding you to assess risk, and motivating you to cope in order to make it through an uncomfortable situation.
2. Avoidance can increase anxiety
Your natural instinct when you see that something makes your child anxious may be to remove them from the situation, and maybe even avoid similar situations in the future. While it's important to avoid unsafe situations when managing food allergies, if you find that you and your child are shying away from most activities, you may need to explore if all of them truly have high enough risk levels that they need to be avoided completely, or if you can reassess the risk levels for some. Why is it important not to simply avoid all situations that evoke anxiety? Because it can send a message to your child that the solution to anxious feelings is to avoid, leave, or simply ignore the feelings. Approaching anxiety this way robs them of the opportunity to learn to navigate these feelings, build tools to become more resilient, and gain confidence.
3. Be realistic, but positive
You can't promise your kids that they will never be faced with anxiety-provoking situations where they may come face-to-face with their allergen, or even experience a reaction. But you can promise them that you are prepared with your emergency action plans, epinepherine, have educated those around you, and that you won't put them in situations they feel unprepared to handle without their permission first. When they express fears or worries, promise them that you are there to approach these feelings together as a team. Remind your child that they will learn how to navigate their worry, and will likely become braver than it over time.
4. Don't reinforce fears; reinforce skills
When your child (or you, for that matter), feel a lack of control, it can fuel anxious thoughts and feelings. Therefore, it's crucial to emphasize the skills they have in their tool kit to navigate and cope with situations, rather than focusing on the fear. Practicing food allergy safety skills often with your child will increase their confidence that they can handle anxiety-provoking situations. If your child presents with the "what ifs" often, use this as opportunities to talk through the scenarios with them. By exploring situations ahead of time, it reminds them which tools they can use to navigate worrying situations, and which skills they have to manage their emotions.
Parents also need to learn how to reinforce skills and not fears in those crucial real-time moments. Rather than responding to your child's anxiety with phrases like "Don't worry" or "Everything will be fine", use messages that reinforce your child's ability to manage the uneasy feelings. When you're faced with that upset tummy, rather than trying to reassure with "I'm sure it's nothing" or even joining right in with their worry, use a skills-focused approach: "Upset tummies are no fun! Let's use our private investigator skills to figure out why it might be bothering you?" (And then follow up with a team investigation together). When your child won't eat at the restaurant, instead of focusing on, and inadvertently fueling the emotion by saying "Are you worried? Is your tummy upset?", focus on the skills by saying something like "I wonder if we should review our safe restaurant eating tools again to make sure we've used them all? Remember when we ate at [insert restaurant] - we used all of these tools and we ate safely." (Maybe even have a checklist handy for your child to actually use at restaurants).
5. Model healthy anxiety management
There's no way around this one - your child watches how you manage (or don't manage) your own fears, worries, and anxiety. They key into your words, your tone and body language, and your actions. Most kids are typically skilled enough to pick up on the discrepancies, too. If you say you aren't worried, yet your child always overhears you talking to a friend about how anxious you are that a reaction will happen, it sends mixed messages. Does that mean parents aren't allowed to have anxiety or fears? Absolutely not (refer back to #1, which applies to kids and adults alike!). Parents, especially those managing food allergies, often have elevated levels of anxiety, especially in certain situations. It's okay to be honest about being anxious or worried as a parent, but learning how to cope with these emotions and practicing what you are preaching is absolutely crucial. Showing your child that you're tolerating/accepting your own stress, and using healthy skills to manage your own anxiety will help them learn and adopt these skills, too.
-(If you feel you're not managing your own anxiety and fear well, please consider reaching out to a counseling professional for support, as it's important to practice good self-care as parents. You can locate a food allergy-knowledgeable one via the Food Allergy Counselor Directory)-
***[This article was published in the Fall/Winter edition of Coping with Allergies & Asthma Magazine, both online and in print]***
RECOMMENDED ANXIETY/WORRY TOOL FOR KIDS:
I like to recommend the follow workbook for kids, as they can work on it with their parent at home, or with a counselor. It's an interactive workbook geared towards kids ages 6-12, which guides parents and kids through common Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques that help with worry. It's part of a series of workbooks, which cover a variety of topics.
What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide To Overcoming Anxiety
by Dawn Huebner, PhD
*(You can also find this book via other sources, such as Amazon, but the APA site offers additional related resources, such as puzzles and word searches)*
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