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Adolescent Food Allergy Management Transitions

teens launging

Let's talk about teens managing food allergies and explore the often anxiety-inducing adolescent food allergy management transition!

Adolescence is a period of ongoing transitions, including physical, cognitive and psychological changes. It's both exciting and anxiety-producing for the teen AND parents, right? Allowing for increased independence and autonomy is a key focus during this stage of development, which as a food allergy parent can feel hard to allow. And adolescence then leads right into young adulthood with increased responsibilities and expectations!

So what's important to focus on during the teen years as you prepare your child for managing food allergies in young adulthood?

Important Reminders for Parents

Here's the truth - transitioning more food allergy management responsibility to your teen is both anxiety-producing and empowering. It's understandable to worry and fear these transitions, especially when you're thinking ahead about them while still situated in the early childhood stages. As such, when allowing your food allergic teen more independence is one of the main goals of this parenting stage, your mind will likely say, "Nope. Don't like this. Don't want to. Not going to do it!"

However, once you're actually the parent of a teen, the path to increased comfort with these transitions comes from actually following through with transitioning responsibility over time.

As I referenced in my 6 Stages of Food Allergy Parenting Explained article, by the time you've reached adolescence with your child, your role is to become the "coach". This means that hopefully you've been teaching them allergy management skills that prepares them to start transitioning more allergy management responsibility to their plates as a teen. (For parents of younger kiddos: If you're feeling anxious reading this, that's okay - use that feeling to motivate you to teach your kiddo age-appropriate allergy management skills that will help you both prepare for when you get to this age and stage!)

Key Adolescent Food Allergy Management Transition Skills

The graphic below highlights key some easily-overlooked skills that are important to help your teen develop during this age and stage. These are skills beyond the commonly-discussed food allergy-specific skills, yet equally important.

This list isn't an exhaustive list - there are many more skills they'll want to learn to effectively manage their food allergy. But these three categories and associated skills are ones that will help your teen truly feel prepared to manage their food allergy confidently.

Image of information on transitional skill-building with allergic teens
Source: EAACI Guidelines (see link below)

Remind yourself that the teen years are preparing them for the next age and stage: young adulthood, where you'll likely become more hands-off as they attempt to manage their food allergy largely on their own.

If you find yourself unwilling to allow your teen opportunities to develop these skills, then they (and you) will feel less competent about managing their food allergy on their own. Simply stated - in order for you both to feel more confident in their ability to stay safe and feel assured that their food allergy management skills are sufficient, your teen has to practice them.

Therefore, if you notice your anxiety getting in the way of encouraging your teen to learn these tasks and develop a growing sense of food allergy management responsibility, ask yourself:

  • What's fueling this fear and how can I address it?

  • What would help me feel willing to allow my teen opportunities to practice skills?

  • Are there knowledge gaps? What do I feel my teen needs to learn more about?

  • Who can I talk to in order to start moving towards this age-appropriate transition?

Remember, once your teen transitions to young adulthood, you become the "spectator" that's there for support - if and when it's needed. Therefore, it's important to practice letting go where safely possible during the teen years, acting as their safety net rather than doing everything for them.

Yes, it will likely feel hard to step back into a less active role after all of the years of hands-on allergy management, but celebrate, because it means that you've raised a confident and capable allergic young adult!

Check out the following resources for more evidence-based guidance:

Resources for teens and young adults:

Below are links to content that may feel helpful for teens and young adults:

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