The Impact of Childhood Food Allergies on Parenting Styles

July 8, 2022

Dr. Sonja Burmeister, Food Allergy Mom, Doctorate and Professor of Occupational Therapy specializing in Pediatrics, Physicians Assistant, Certified in Early Intervention (OTD, MSPA-C, OTR/L, EICP-OT)

The psychological effects of having a child with food allergies is profound.  Food, which in most cultures is seen as a source for mothers to nurture their children and families, is now a potential threat.  For a parent of a child with food allergies, every food label must be studied, and new food carefully introduced, to ensure their child will not have an allergic reaction, or forebodingly an anaphylactic response.  This leaves mothers uncertain and mistrusting, creating a lifelong relationship with food where trust must be earned.  Researchers ponder what effect this may have on one’s parenting style.

In a recent study performed by a Department of Psychology and published by Children’s Health Care, researchers looked at the likelihood of parents becoming overprotective in their parenting style as a result of having children with food allergies.  In this comparison study, the study administrators asked 78 parents of children without food allergies and 80 parents of children with food allergies, to respond to questions to assess their ability to tollerate uncertainty in their parenting decisions and to determine their parenting style.  The overwhelming outcome of this research suggests that parents of children with food allergies were highly unlikely to be able to deal with uncertainty, and were at higher risk in developing a protective parenting style.

A protective parenting style can be healthy and can create a safe and enriching environment within which a child with food allergies can survive and thrive, when done effectively. The issues arrise when protective parenting spills over into overprotective parenting. Studies have shown that overprotective parenting can be problematic, as overprotection of the wellbeing of the child can lead to risk aversion, a dependency on the parents, a higher risk of psychological disorders, a lack of strong coping mechanisms, and chronic anxiety.

As parents of children with multiple food allergies, my twin sister and I share in this innate knowledge.  It is what inspired us to create MyHealthcareKit, which offers a medication storage kit and your doctors prescribed treatment regimen – all in one organized place so you and your caregivers can quickly and effectively delivery the right food allergy medication in the event of an accidental food allergen exposure.  Our hope is to provide you with the security of knowing you can accurately respond to your child’s allergic response, as well as to promote trust in your children’s environment because you are now armed with the resources needed to master your child’s food allergy emergency.

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