….specifically teens, to cook and take care of themselves…

It’s been a while since I’ve written about a glimpse into my life as a mom of a teenaged child. But, for those of you who are curious, I’m going to give you an inside look into how we’re concentrating on self care. We’re preparing our child for the ‘real world’. This means everything from shopping, making wise food choices, managing asthma, communicating with doctors, exercise, life goals, cooking and cleaning.

Sounds good? For me, it means allowing said child to manage herself, providing a guiding hand and not doing everything that I’ve done for the past 15 years.

I have 2 years to get this child (and myself!) into a space where she (we) can go into the world on her (our) own.

Why did I entitle this 5 Ways to Encourage People With Food Allergies? Because learning new skills requires a lot of encouragement. I’m learning a new skill (letting go and teaching). And she is learning several new skills (an example: how to open the fridge in the afternoon and get her own snack).

1. DON’T GIVE UP. repeat. DON’T GIVE UP.

In our world of instant gratification, it’s easy to give up. Go back to our old habits. Park ourselves in front of the television, and give up. Don’t give up on your mission. Keep up and you will be kept up as the Yoga saying goes.

2. GIVE REWARDS

I don’t give food rewards. Too limiting. We use movies, concerts, experiences and books/cds as rewards.

3. TEACH THINKING

It took a few years, but every time our child would have a soda, she would get a terrible headache (this is not a food allergy, by the way). After about three years of me commenting, gee, every time you have a soda, you get a headache. When I asked her recently if she wanted a soda at a special party she said, “No thanks, they give me headaches”.

When I hear her coughing or wheezing when she laughs, I’ll ask her, “How is your asthma?” If she says fine (sigh teenagers), I casually mention that I hear her wheezing or that the cough is related to her asthma. I’ve been doing this since middle school. Now, she will either respond with “Oh, I already did my medication” or “This cough is not related to my asthma, it’s my nose.”

4. ENCOURAGE ADVANCED MEAL PLANNING

What would you like to eat? What is healthy? What is easy? Then make it available. What are your dinner plans for after the movie? Would you like to eat before or would you like to take a sandwich? We’re still at this stage, but you can see where I’m going with this. All too often, teenagers don’t think and run around. For those who have multiple food allergies and can’t eat easily at a restaurant, and if you’re a teenager, stopping at a store for a can of beans isn’t too cool. For a long time I was the one carrying the extra food, like an impromptu caterer, and now, I need to put this in her hands, even if it means she goes hungry. I’ll put money on it that the next time, she’ll remember to eat or bring food before she goes out.

5. FIND OR CREATE PRODUCTS TO ENCOURAGE SELF-SUFFICIENCY

Our most recent purchase was an air popcorn popper for $39.95. This is a brilliant device, air pop, no mess, and super easy. We also recently acquired a microwave and have a rice cooker. We mix our own chocolate milk mix; a 1:1 ratio of sugar to Hershey’s cocoa so it’s ready for her to make her own hot cocoa. We also always have herbal tea on the counter next to the fruit bowl.

Does it sound like baby steps? They are. Little baby steps that will add up to big steps in a few years. Of course, I’ll let you know how this goes. What steps are you taking with your child to increase their independence?

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