With the school year now in full swing, the inevitable flurry of party invitations has begun. If you’re new, or even fairly well accustomed, to allergy life the idea of your child attending another kid’s party (even with you at their side)can be really daunting and anxiety-inducing.
So here are my top tips for easing the rising panic, assuming your child actually wants to go to the party in the first place!
Make contact with the parents organising the party.
We always do this to make them aware of Osh’s allergies and to check what the situation with food will be – What sort of thing will be served? Is the venue clued up on allergies? Would the parent in question mind you contacting the venue yourself?
In my experience, most parents are relieved to find out that you’re happy to contact the venue direct as this means you can make your own judgment on what’s safest for your child.
Consider making a plate of safe food for your child and take along with you.
We always do this as it enables us and Osh to feel that he is as safe as he can be when at the party. We’ve found that most host parents are actually extremely relieved when we offer to do this, because it takes the pressure off them and eases their worry.
As we allergy parents know, catering for a child with one or more allergies is challenging and a huge responsibility – parents of classmates can feel this acutely too. They can really worry about whether they’ll get it wrong and what the consequences of that might be.
If you’re taking your own plate, try to match what’s going to be on the table.
At most play centres and venues that are geared up for kids’ parties, you’ll find the food on offer doesn’t differ too much. Think: ham/cheese sandwiches, fresh fruit, crisps, biscuits, mini sausages, chicken nuggets, chips. If you check with the host parent/venue first, you should be able to get a general idea of what will be on the table so that you can prepare safe equivalents where possible.
Don’t forget the cake and party bag!
Think about a cake alternative for your child (we often make a chocolate cornflake cake/rocky road with Osh’s favourite chocolate and he’s completely happy with this) which you can then ask host parents to pop in clean party bag for your child.
There will often be sweets/chocolate in your child’s bag too, so either take along some safe treats that you can swap with those already in there or a non-food treat that they’ll like instead.
Don’t feel self-conscious/awkward about asking questions, wiping down surfaces and taking your own food and drinks.
Explain to the host parents, that these precautions are in no way a reflection of how much you do/don’t trust them to look after/cater for your child. The long and short of it is that we have to do these things as allergy parents and if we raise eyebrows, then we have to ignore those eyebrows. Turning a blind eye to someone’s judgement of our actions is a small price to pay for tucking a happy, healthy, safe allergy warrior into his/her bed at night.
Prep your child.
We always talk to Osh before we go to a party, explaining that there will be food that isn’t safe for him on the table and that he should only eat what’s on his plate.
If the party is at a soft play centre, we also make extra sure that Osh knows he needs to alert us if there is any food inside the play areas, that he needs to avoid it and ask us to wipe it up.
Prep your child’s friends (via their parents if necessary).
Osh generally has at least one friend who he’s really pally with at each party, so it’s a good idea to ensure his/her parents are familiar with Osh’s allergies. They then speak to their child in advance too and teach them to be Osh’s little wingmen/women, keeping an eye out for foods that he shouldn’t go near and letting us know if he’s feeling poorly when playing.
Last but never least…take your child’s emergency meds along and keep them nearby at all times!