Gaining Independence as a Teenager With Food Allergies
“Remember to take responsibility and act with caution, care and confidence, which will ultimately help you feel more independent as you get older.”
Guest post by Teen Advisory Group member Sara Hantgan
As we celebrate the Fourth of July, here are some tips from Teen Advisory Group member Sara Hantgan on how teens with food allergy can take steps toward greater independence through self-advocacy and personal responsibility.
Seemingly harmless activities, such as going out with friends and going out to eat are difficult when handling food allergies. Growing up with food allergies can make it hard to take matters into your own hands, as your family members might help out in difficult situations. Particularly when you are younger, parents tend to feel the need to jump in and help you use your voice to ensure your safety. While this is beneficial when you are a child, it is important to also become more independent and begin to take action.
Teenagers may want to take risks, especially when out with friends. Remember to take responsibility and act with caution, care and confidence, which will ultimately help you feel more independent as you get older. Here are some tips to take responsibility and act to gain more independence as a food-allergic teenager.
- Gain confidence in speaking up: Talk about your food allergies openly. Talk to close friends and family so they understand the extent of your allergies. Order for yourself at restaurants and clearly explain your allergies, rather than having your parents do it, which will help you feel more comfortable in other situations as well.
- Take responsibility for your actions: Set a reminder to bring your EpiPen or other epinephrine auto-injector with you at all times. Remember to bring safe snacks and/or meals to any situation, as it may be difficult to guarantee safe food. Practice reading food labels and identifying your allergens (they might be hidden!). Before visiting a restaurant, check the menu and call to notify the restaurant ahead of time. Additionally, if you have multiple food allergies, print out cards stating your food allergies in multiple languages to prevent any confusion if you go out alone.
- Learn what works best for you in social situations: Whether this means spending time with friends and families doing activities not surrounded by food, or identifying peer pressure and how to avoid it, knowing what works for you will help you be more empowered in these tough situations.
I hope these recommendations help teenagers with food allergies begin to gain more independence!