Saying no is something that many have a problem with. We tend to overcommit, people please and/or agree to things we don’t want to do for a number of reasons. When we had our first kid, I didn’t want to disappoint anyone by not being everywhere at the winter holidays. We couldn’t possibly say no to any invitation because we didn’t want to be rude. This wasn’t just brought on by baby, it was always a “thing,” especially for me. I was definitely a people pleaser and it is something that I’ve struggled with over the years.
When TealKid was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, things came to a screeching halt. I was paralyzed with fear to what was probably an unhealthy degree. Everything in me was screaming “Danger! Danger! Danger!” Trips to the museum and other spots we had previously gone with some ease were now laden with land mines that I wasn’t ready to deal with. I needed to work through my fears, and that took time. We slowly came out of the house more and I developed strategies to manage being out and about. Snack, meds, and wipes.
As with all things parenting, ages and stages change. When he started to crawl, it was a new set of issues. Hands. Mouth. Barf. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I have a background of working in the operating room as a surgical technologist, germs are not my friend. Between my germ issues and now the addition of food allergies, I would have been happy to have TealKid in a hazmat suit.
As we moved from one stage to the next, we have come up against saying no to things that people just don’t seem to understand. People tell me that we can’t raise these kids in a bubble. We can’t keep them from living life. To this I tell them, yes, you are 100% correct. We can’t. They will grow up and leave the nest and we do need to teach them how to live in the “real world.” Their real world is different though. They have more investigating they need to do, more corners to look around.
Saying no is something they need to know how to do and be confident in. There are times and situations that don’t bother TealKid, but give him that same exact situation on a different day, the answer could be totally different. People need to be okay with that. His desire to be or not be in a situation can vary based on a million different things that may or may not be whirling around in his head. There are much deeper questions than “is it safe” that he may be grappling with that you have no idea about. The psychological aspects of managing food allergies is something that is often forgotten when we talk about food allergies.
If these situations are too much all the time, I am a firm believer in getting help in managing the anxiety many kids with food allergies feel. There is an amazing advocate who is working hard on connecting allergy families with professional help to manage some of these anxiety issues. While therapy is great, finding someone who truly understands that the actual and perceived risks of a child with food allergies are very different from a child who doesn’t is really important. Tamara Hubbard, LCPC from The Food Allergy Counselor has started a list of counselors who do understand this disease process and all it entails. I feel that these kids need to learn it is okay to say no to a party, gathering or event if they aren’t comfortable with it but they need to be able to manage situations as well and that may take some extra work if there are issues with anxiety. We as parents need to support these kids even if it means saying no to things.
And people need to be okay with that.