FeaturesFeb/Mar 2017 Issue

6 Tips to Enjoy an Allergy-Free Valentine's Day for Kids

Your child & the elementary school party

young girl with valentine

©THINKSTOCK/photodisc/digital vision

When I was in elementary school, Valentine’s Day meant handcrafted hearts, sentimental cards and lots of candy. Now that I’m a food allergy mom, the holiday doesn’t conjure up the same warm, fuzzy feelings. Instead, I catch myself fretting about all the scenarios my children might encounter during their classroom parties.

Like most holidays, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with food. At my children’s elementary school, the day is marked with candy, cupcakes and various other sweets, in addition to the usual exchange of Valentine cards.

I’ve learned that a little planning and preparation go a long way to ensuring my kids enjoy a safe classroom party. Here are tips to help navigate Valentine’s Day at your children’s elementary school.

1. Keep the dialogue open. Send your child’s teacher a friendly reminder about your child’s food issues and encourage a safe and inclusive celebration. If your schedule allows, offer to help.

2. Throw in your hat. Volunteer to help plan the party, if you can. Visit the classroom to set things up and join in the fun. Send in a delicious safe snack that all students can enjoy. For allergy-friendly chocolate cupcakes, go to GlutenFreeAndMore.com/cupcakes.

3. Evaluate everyone’s needs. If you’re on the planning committee, discuss the dietary needs of all students involved. Are there other food allergens that need to be avoided? Would having a non-food party be the best and most inclusive option? Use this as an opportunity to help educate others about food allergies.

4. Talk about it. Chat with your child about the upcoming classroom party and what’s safe to eat. If you can’t attend the party and you’re not sure about the event, set a family rule: No Valentine’s Day candy until your child is home and you’ve checked ingredient labels. Make sure the teacher is on board and will enforce this rule.

5. Include small surprises. Handing out Valentines is typically a high point of the party. Set a fun example by attaching a surprise non-food item—stickers, tattoos, glow sticks, pencils—to the Valentine cards your child is passing out to others.

6. Focus on the fun. Giving children a successful holday celebration is part of the day-to-day life with food allergies. This success creates good memories and builds on the life skills necessary for children to grow into confident and well-prepared adults. That’s why it’s important to approach Valentine’s Day (and every holiday celebration) with a positive attitude. Always focus on the fun, not the food. Remember what this holiday is truly about—love.

Contributor Cindy Gordon (vegetarianmamma.com) is a food allergy mom.

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