Put it in writing.
Write down your emergency action plan and share it with all involved adults. Every adult that is responsible for your child should support the action plan.
For example, if a young child starts to eat something at a friend's house, an adult who knows about your plan should say, "Let's ask mom or dad if you can eat that,” Szychlinski says.
Older children may be able to give themselves an epinephrine injection. They should still have a backup, such as a classmate, who knows how to do it, too. "It's like swimming with a buddy," Szychlinski says. The backup person should be someone who isn't skittish about needles or injections.
Model a "can-do" attitude.
How you react to your child's severe allergy will set the stage for how your child responds, says Szychlinski. Sadness, anger, and frustration are normal reactions, but if that's all your child sees, then his allergy may become a burden.
"Kids need to accept this as a normal part of life," Szychlinski says. It may help to bring your child to school meetings where you discuss your child's allergy with teachers, nurses, or administrators. But if you do that, make sure you set a positive tone, rather than portraying the allergy as a problem.
Rehearse and remind.
You can also help your child by role-playing. Role-play how to respond if she starts to have an allergic reaction or displays symptoms of anaphylaxis.
As with other life skills, children may need an occasional reminder about anaphylaxis symptoms. Don’t scare them, but make sure the risk is not "out of sight, out of mind."
Empower your child to ask for help.
Some children hesitate to go to an adult for help or to stand out from others. Help your child identify a responsible adult at their school, or at their other activities, to go to if they need help.
Most important, Szychlinski says, is to find a person who won't ask, "What happened? What did you do?" Your child’s support person needs to be an empathetic adult who will help them immediately.
"Try to make the way you treat the food allergy consistent with the rest of your parenting," Szychlinski says. For example, if you use positive reinforcement in other areas of parenting, do that with your child's allergy management, too.
Adjust as your child ages.
Middle school is a transition time. For kids with serious allergies, middle school is a period during which they become more responsible for maintaining a safe environment for themselves. During this time, encourage your child to:
- Consistently say "no" to food offered
- Read food labels
- Regularly wash their hands
- Keep their hands out of their mouth
Start trusting them more. You'll still have adults on hand for backup, but at this age, it's time for your child to start taking more responsibility.