When my kids are out of their element, they do one of two things – cling to my side or “experiment.” My daughter uses the opportunity to hang around my neck, afraid of everyone, while my son ventures off, performing his own allergy tests as he eats cheese, milk, cookies off the floor… every “forbidden” food that he could possibly find.
Whether your kids are clingers or explorers, attending parties is no easy feat. Adding food allergies to the mix makes attending parties even more difficult.
Even so, your child’s food allergies shouldn’t be a reason to stay home.
Before you head out the door (or RSVP “no”) to your next party, try these five tips to make your party a little more pleasant.
5 Tips for Attending Parties When Your Child Has a Food Allergy
1. Advise the hosts of the food allergy
Plan ahead. When accepting an invitation, tell the host that someone in your family has a food allergy. Explain the severity of the allergy and ask what will be on the menu.
Depending on the severity of the allergy (and your child’s age), you might be able to plan an allergen-friendly menu or provide a few alternative dishes. If you’re looking for inspiration, try some of the delicious recipes in the Food Allergy Freedom Super Bundle.
Most likely, the host won’t be able to provide a menu tailored specifically to your child’s needs, so be prepared with alternatives.
If your child is allergic to airborne allergens or the host can’t promise that the allergens won’t be present, you might need to come up with an alternative plan, like hosting the party yourself or celebrating with the host at a different time and location.
2. Bring your own food and drinks
Bring your own labeled foods. For example, I often bring allergy-friendly cookies to parties, complete with a large sign that says “dairy, egg, and nut free.”
You may want to keep allergy friendly items on a separate table. This will help prevent cross-contamination, such as crumbs from other dishes falling on the plate or even people using the same spoon for multiple dishes. Also, this will help young kids know exactly what they can and can’t eat.
If you’re concerned about your child eating a “forbidden” food, bring a separate meal for your child. This works especially well for younger children, but I’ve even brought my own cupcakes and ice cream to birthday parties so that my kids won’t feel left out.
If you’re looking for great recipes that everyone can enjoy, I love The Food Allergy Mama’s cookbooks. I have both the family meal cookbook, as well as the baking cookbook. Both have ah-mazing recipes that even non-food-allergy guests will enjoy. Some of her recipes were also featured in the Food Allergy Freedom Super Bundle, so grab it now while it’s available!
3. Make other guests aware
People love to feed kids, and the more sweet, sugary, junk food that they can force feed your kids – the better.
Unfortunately, force-feeding random kids can be downright deadly.
Before anyone has the opportunity to sneak your kids death treats, warn other guests that your kids have food allergies. Word of mouth (and long explanations about your child’s last excursion to the ER, allergy shots, etc.) tend to work well, but you could also try pinning a note to your child, especially if he’s young and unable to explain his allergies.
I bought these food allergy awareness stickers for my kids before they were able to talk about their allergies. They proudly wore them whenever we went to a party. The stickers are also handy to put on kids for the first week of preschool or elementary school.
4. Put someone on “child watch”
Always have a trusted adult (one who is familiar with your child’s allergies and who is able to read labels) keep an eye on your child. And by keep an eye on the child, they’ll probably have to stick by your child’s side like glue. My son is the king of sneaking off and eating scraps off other people’s plates (and then blaming the other person for “feeding” him).
If you actually want to enjoy visiting with friends and family, it helps to have multiple “child watchers.” Take turns doing “child duty” throughout the party. 😉
5. Avoid the triggers
As much as it pains me to say this, there are some parties, friends’ and family members’ homes that we don’t even try to attend.
After raising two kids who have food allergies (and dealing with a food allergy myself), I’ve come to realize that not everyone understands or realizes the seriousness of food allergies.
Unfortunately, too many people think that you can “pick off” the allergens, not realizing that even the residual nut oil can cause a reaction. Or restaurants have read the ingredient labels on hamburger buns, only to butter them as they place them on the griddle. Or smoke, or dust, or dog dander next to your child won’t send them into an asthmatic tailspin.
When you’re dealing with a food allergy, sometimes avoidance is the best prevention method. If you aren’t able to host the party at your home (or with your own approved foods), suggest a different location, like a “safe” restaurant. If that’s not possible, you may need to skip the party.