No doubt that adversity brings with it some trials and tribulations. But, it can also have upsides. As a mom of a child who has lived over half his lifespan with certain foods being off limits for medical reasons, I ponder what wider teachings he has gained over the years.
Admittedly, sometimes my son does get down about having to pass on that piece of cake for a friend’s birthday or doesn’t get to try the local cuisine when we are traveling abroad. But, through it all, I see a little boy entering adolescence with some powerful truths and an amazing strength of will.
Here are my top 5 lessons learned from having a child who is a food allergy sufferer. These points below remind us that although we may have had a rocky road with our battle over food allergies, we can all celebrate the good that comes out of such life experience and embrace the individuality that it has fostered.
You Speak Up for Yourself
You are confident that your words matter. You know that you are worthy of being heard. And, ultimately, you won’t stop until you are understood because you know you deserve that kind of treatment from others.
Adolescence is so often characterized by the inability for young folks to verbally define their needs, desires, and dislikes. This important skill is acutely developed for those kids navigating life with a food allergy because it is necessary even at a very young age to skip the difficult stage of bashfulness.
You Make Healthier Eating Choices
You are conscious that your health is important. You are in tune with your body and realize it is necessary to change your behavior when your health isn’t responding to something you are doing.
The positives of living gluten free and avoiding cross contamination amount to eating a more healthy diet. Medical concerns like childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes aren’t huge concerns for kids with allergies because clean eating is at the forefront of the gluten free lifestyle. Kid favorites like fast food, pizza, and chicken fingers are all no-nos. Guilty pleasures like cupcakes, cookies and pies are also completely out. More natural sources of gluten free foods fill the role of satisfying those sweet tooth cravings, and, in the end, this fosters a more health conscious mindset and develops a stronger connection with a healthier you.
You Accept Your Body Changes
You realize you can’t control every little detail about your body. You have gone through the body battle during allergy diagnosis and have firsthand knowledge that not even the strongest will can alter the outcome.
The process of accepting your body as having a mind of its own traditionally wreaks psychological havoc for those going through adolescence. This lack of control over one’s own self can lead to low self-esteem, self-hate, and even self-mutilation in an attempt to stop the changes. But, for those that suffer from food allergies, the kid struggle of self versus body is less of an issue because they have already emerged from such combat. They are more patient with your body and are more forgiving when things don’t go as expected.
You Look Before You Leap
You take your time before jumping straight into something.
Impulsivity is a characteristic that often plagues kids that haven’t quite settled into maturity. But, for those that live daily with a food allergy, asking questions, information gathering, synthesizing and processing data are important parts of everyday life before taking action. This leads to more calculated actions that steers allergy kids away from immediately seeking a quick return.
You Know Different Can Be Beautiful
You realize that different doesn’t make you less than.
Adolescence may be a time where children feel coerced into conforming, but kids with food allergies have to play the part of an outlier when food is concerned to protect their health. This self-preservation decreases the dependence on making decisions based upon peer pressure. It strengthens a stronger sense of self and makes it more apparent that individual choices are valuable. It opens the door to more quickly developing personal individual preferences and settling into a more positive mental state instead of cowering to the will of others just to fit in. The experience of being different also creates empathy for others positioning children with allergies to be more open minded, understanding, and supportive friends and neighbors.