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Food Allergy Parent Guilt

Since the first day Food Allergy Awareness Week also happened to be Mother's Day, let's honor this unique combination of days and talk about a tough emotion that some parents of kiddos with food allergies feel: guilt.

Your Mind Wants Answers

When your child receives a food allergy diagnosis, your mind wants to know WHY. How did this food allergy develop? What caused it? And how can you prevent more food allergies from developing and keep your child safe?

But when you receive the answer - that there’s no specific cause or that it's a combination of many factors, some which are out of your control - your mind struggles to accept that. It’s so uncertain and unpredictable.

In the face of that uncertainty, parents tend to keep searching for answers. Your mind tells you that there has to be some stone left unturned that explains WHY your child developed a food allergy, and you must find it.

Uncertainty and Fear Give Way to Guilt

It’s in this quest to answer that elusive WHY that some parents blame themselves for the food allergy diagnosis. This self-blame turns into guilt, which convinces you that you must have done something (or NOT done something) that led to the food allergy diagnosis. Somehow, it’s your fault, even if there’s no evidence to prove it.

Yet, even without evidence to prove the diagnosis is your fault, guilt and self-blame provide a sense of certainty about WHY, which often leads to this unhelpful thought: “If the food allergy diagnosis is somehow my fault, then I can prevent another food allergy or allergic reaction from occurring by eliminating ALL risks and controlling things.”

This tends to send parents into an unhelpful pattern of control-seeking and avoidance, which often leads to limiting life experiences beyond what may be necessary (making food allergy parenting and life even harder).

Lean Into Self-Compassion Instead of Guilt

When food allergy parent guilt shows up, rather than hop on the self-blame train, practice self-compassion instead.

Have you ever noticed yourself being kind towards others when they're facing challenges or struggling (such as others with food allergies), yet your self-talk is critical and judgmental? Self-compassion is the act of being kind to ourselves, just as we would show kindness and caring towards others.

Think about it - what would you say to another person managing food allergies who was having a hard time adjusting to the diagnosis? I'm sure it would be warm and compassionate. Do you say the same things to yourself when you're facing a challenge? And if not, why?

Practicing self-compassion starts by reminding yourself that:

  • It's okay to have all sorts of thoughts and feelings about food allergy parenting

  • Many others feel this way, too - you're not alone on this journey

  • It's important to practice kind self-talk, especially in the tough moments - if you wouldn't say it to a friend, don't say it to yourself

So here's to you moms! I see you and I support you. Remember that you're not alone and that you're doing great. Be kind to yourself today and all the days, please!

Want to learn more about self-compassion and check out various self-compassion exercises? Visit Dr. Kristin Neff's website!


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