Teens in the Real World
  Food Allergies in the Real World  

Learning to Take Control

“My parents are constantly bugging me about my food allergy. How can I get them off my back?"

"My parents are too strict. They won't let me go to a lot of places by myself, or with my friends, because of my food allergies."

If this sounds like you, step back and take a careful look at your situation. Your parents aren't staying up until the wee hours of the morning devising ways to ruin your fun. They probably feel you are not ready to handle the full responsibility of your food allergy yet.

If you feel that you are, start by talking calmly to your parents. Tell them you would like to be more involved in managing your food allergies. Agree to shift the control of your food allergy slowly; as they see that you are able to handle small responsibilities, they will be more comfortable allowing you to handle the big ones.

Preparing yourself to take on the responsibility of your food allergy is one of the first steps to gaining independence. The following tips may help:

Do your homework

Pay attention to ways your parents help manage your food allergies both at home and in public. For example, note the questions they ask servers in restaurants; keep your own "How to Read a Label" card rather than relying on your mom or dad to have one. Take the lead in asking about ingredients and food preparation the next time you and your family eat in a restaurant.

Actions speak louder than words

Demonstrate that you are willing and able to take responsibility for your food allergy. One way to do this is to show your parents that you have your medications with you when you are going to leave the house — before they ask.

Know who to talk to

Responsibly managing your food allergies doesn't mean doing it by yourself; it means knowing who to consult about which aspects of your allergy.

Plan ahead

By figuring out how you will handle big events, like a school dance or football camp, and small ones, like hanging out at the pizza place or going to parties, you'll be able to enjoy the events themselves instead of stressing about your food allergy.

Admit your mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. If you have a reaction, analyze what happened and how you can prevent it from happening again. Discussing what you've learned from your reaction shows your parents that you are mature enough to use your past mistakes to build future successes.

Finally, remember that gaining independence is a process. Celebrate small victories (like the first time you leave the house and your parents don't ask if you have your medications—because they already know you do) and use them as encouragement to keep after the big ones (like going to camp, going to college, or traveling by yourself). By taking the lead in managing your food allergies on a day-to-day basis, you will be preparing yourself to handle unfamiliar situations in the future. Good luck!

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