When an editor for the American Counseling Association's online magazine, Counseling Today, reached out to me a couple of months ago to talk about food allergies, I was not only flattered, but excited that she wanted to learn more about this population.
Her goal? To write an article on how licensed counseling professionals can help and support clients with food allergies, especially those that are struggling to find an emotional balance.
The editor, Bethany Bray, asked thoughtful questions and listened intently to my responses. She truly took the time to put herself in the shoes of those managing a food allergy. After talking for an hour, she definitely had a better understanding of the emotions that many food allergic families feel, and got that this conversation was just the "tip of the iceberg" on this vast topic.
The article, entitled "Supporting clients through the anxiety and exhaustion of food allergies" was published last week. Boy, does it paint a pretty accurate picture! Those that have read it has shared that they felt that it truly hit on some of the emotions that aren't always as well-represented, such as the feelings of burnout and exhaustion.
The American Counseling Association is "the world's largest organization representing professional counselors in various practice settings." Their online magazine, Counseling Today, is read by thousands of counselors, which means the topic of supporting clients with food allergies has been shared with many in this helping profession.
So let's tell them thanks! Consider leaving a supportive comment on their article to let the American Counseling Association (and the editor) know that we thank them for exploring food allergies and sharing tips with counselors so they are better prepared to understand the needs of the food allergic community. (Be sure to click on the article link, in the text above, or posted again below, and leave a comment there so that they see it).
Article: Supporting Clients Through the Anxiety and Exhaustion of Food Allergies
As a licensed professional counselor trained in family therapy, I am always curious about how various factors impact family systems. The family is like a mobile in which everyone plays a role in its stability. So it's no surprise that the balance can be thrown off by even the simplest of changes.
The addition of a food allergy into a family system often results in major changes that affect most members of the unit. There have been studies done about the impacts on quality of life for parents/caregivers who care for a child with a food allergy, such as SOAAR's research studies on these and related topics. However, I was curious specifically how non-food allergic siblings felt about having a sibling with food allergies.
In order to gain some insight on this topic, I created an informal and anonymous survey* with these seven questions (listed with results below), which was completed by 25 participants:
(Parents were allowed to complete the survey on behalf of those too young to complete it themselves)
How old are you?
How many siblings with food allergies/related illnesses do you have?
What do you do to help with your sibling's food allergy? (Sample of answers):
Do you worry about your sibling because they have a food allergy?
What other feelings do you have about having food allergies in your family? (Sample of answers):
Do you ever feel you get less attention because you don't have a food allergy?
Please share anything else you'd like to about food allergies being part of your family. (Sample of answers):
Conclusions and Thoughts....
Food allergies, as well as any chronic illnesses, are a family disease - it impacts each member of the family in different ways, both positively and negatively. Some sibling impacts were highlighted by this brief, informal survey.
Read More On This Topic:
*THANK YOU TO THOSE WHO VOLUNTARILY COMPLETED THIS SURVEY. Those who took the anonymous survey were informed on this writer's professional counseling background, the purpose of the survey being for educational purposes, and how the survey results would be utilized in educational materials, such as a blog post. They were told they could reach out to this writer for results if they were interested.
It's hard when friends don't understand or follow your family's food allergy rules, but it's even harder (and more disappointing) when your own family members don't get it. Unfortunately, it's a frequent topic in food allergy social support groups, so it seems to be a common scenario.
Whether the rule-breakers are your in-laws or extended family members, navigating this scenario can be tricky.
Here are a few suggestions to help you deal with these down-right frustrating dilemmas:
The reality is that no matter how it’s handled, discussing this topic with non-compliant family members may cause ripples, as well as overwhelming feelings, which you'll need to work through. But ultimately, you have to do what’s best for your family. In doing so, not only are you putting your child's safety first, you're also modeling how to navigate tough scenarios, even if the outcome isn't ideal. (Comment below with what solutions have worked for your family in these situations. Your suggestions may help a fellow family with food allergies!)
Additional Articles Related to This Topic:
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Listen to & subscribe to the Exploring Food Allergy Families podcast!
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