Posted by Cris on | March 2, 2011 | No Comments
Birthday parties can be stressful when your kids have severe food allergies: the food on the table, or worse, on the floor, pose hazards, especially for small children who like to stuff everything in their mouth. Here’s some tips on how to reduce party panic.
1. Ask the host if you can contribute some cupcakes that are egg free/diary free/ nut free (or whatever allergy your child has) to the party buffet table. That way your child has something safe to eat at cake time — and something other kids can share. Allergic kids like to see that they’re eating what other kids are eating.
2. Pack your own goodie bag, with allergy-free treats and toys. Substitute quickly and quietly as you leave the party, if your child is young enough to bluff. With older kids, strike a pre-party agreement that you’ll “trade” goodie bags after the party. That way she can accept the gift bag politely from the host, and then swap it on the way home with the one you got her.
It’s a win-win: she gets some goodies, and you get to be gracious. After all, nobody likes to stare suspiciously into a goodie bag and grill the host (Are there NUTS in that chocolate?! Are those weird, squishy Japanese candies really dairy free?!!). Donate the original bag to the cab driver — or your neighbour.
3. Stuff Your Kids Before You Go. A full kid is less likely to be tempted by party food and treats. Feed them an early lunch – or even load them up on safe junk food en route. After all, most parents write off healthy dining on party days anyway, and let kids stuff themselves with sausages, crisps and fairy bread at the event. Let your allergic kid have their own junk binge beforehand. That cake and cookie tray won’t get a second glance from a pre-stuffed party goer.
4. Early Come, Early Go – before the cakes and crumbs hit the floor. Let’s face it — this is the scariest part of parties, where little toddlers and small kids are concerned. As the food slowly spreads from the table to the floor, stress levels start to rise. If your toddler is still in that stage where everything goes into the mouth, then it makes sense to get out while the getting is good. You’ve shown face, given the gift, taken some photos, and let your kids have some fun in the bouncy castle with the party girl. Short is sweet where allergic toddlers are concerned.
5. Bring a Playground Partner: If the party is for your older child’s friend and it’s your younger one that has allergies, it’s not fair to cut your older child’s party time short with an early exit. Bring your husband, friend, helper or sitter to parties that you want both kids to attend, and have that person take the toddler, who’s likely to pick up suspect crumbs off the floor, outside when things get hectic. If the party is at a condo, there’s a playground somewhere. There are plenty of neighbourhood parks in Singapore, too. Locate one near the party venue using google maps before you head out.
6. Double Check the Ingredients – Even for Foods Made For Your Child. Not long after we first found out that CJ had anaphylactic allergies, we went to a party. I had informed the hostess beforehand that CJ had serious allergies – not that I was expecting her to cater purely for CJ, but so I could also find out what food was going to be served. I think it is really important to inform anyone who invites an allergic child to a party that there is an issue with some foods. My friend was very kind and told me when we got there that she had made a cake with CJ in mind. It contains no nuts, and only a little bit of egg, she said. She didn’t think that a “small amount” would matter. Of course it does. Thank goodness I hadn’t given any to CJ, and luckily I had brought my special cake for both Boo and CJ so they didn’t miss out. We politely declined her offer of birthday cake.
7. Utilise an older sibling or friends who are also in attendance: Parties are a nerve wrecking place for parents of an allergic child – there is no doubt about that. Boo luckily is old enough to help to some degree. Of course we would not rely purely on her; the responsibility lies solely with me and my husband. However, Boo knows to shout “Do not feed my brother, speak to Mummy and Daddy” if she sees anyone offering food to CJ. She’s yelled this quite a few times- just as my husband and I are explaining to whoever is trying to offer CJ food that he is not able to eat it. Our friends have, on the whole, been great too. I’ve shown our core group how to use the epi-pen, and they would also tell people not to give CJ food without checking with us first.
8. Don’t Trust the Food. If your child has severe food allergies, this just makes sense. Unless you are at the party of very close friends who ‘get it’ and you are sure that the food is 100% safe for your child, it’s simple: don’t trust the food. If you are not sure, don’t give it to your child. It is really not worth it. Worst case scenario, you mildly offend someone who should have the sense to see your point of view. If they don’t… well you know!!
9. Politely Decline. This sentiment covers a number of different issues that can arise when taking an anaphylactic child to a party. Sometimes, the only option is to bow out. You could try to bring your child their own special food — but if you know that an unsuitable food is being served and there is a strong chance that your child could come into contact with it… politely decline. A friend of mine recently held a party for her son, and was brilliant with the way that she informed me of the food that was being served: she had the foresight to double check if there would be an issue for CJ. There was: chicken satay and its accompanying peanut sauce. We could picture dozens of kids, running around waving satay, and dropping half-eaten sticks everywhere. We had no option but to politely decline. My friend understood. Although CJ missed this one party, it was not really a huge issue compared to what could have happened if he came into contact with the sauce.
10. Book a Make-Up Play date: If you have to decline, fix a time for the party girl or boy to come round to your place for a mini-birthday play date. Blow up some balloons, get a piñata, make some cupcakes and let the kids ice them using pots of different-coloured icing as a birthday play date activity. It might even prove a more memorable birthday get-together for your child and their friend then a packed function center full of 20 screaming children.
- Vicky & Cris