Just as food-allergic children need support, so do their parents.
“Unless you’re living with a serious food issue 24/7, you don’t know what it’s like. It helps moms and dads to talk with other parents who are raising food-allergic kids,” says Denise Bunning, cofounder of Mothers of Children Having Allergies (MOCHA), a Chicago-area support group.
Groups like MOCHA provide parents with a friendly community that may include online chat rooms, monthly newsletters and regular meetings where parents share practical tips, such as how to use an EpiPen, how to handle birthdays and holidays, and what recipes work best. Parents also learn how to keep their kids safe in school and when traveling.
But in addition to practical advice, a support group provides emotional bolstering when moms and dads need a shoulder.
“Make no mistake about it. There’s post-traumatic stress associated with an anaphylactic reaction. This is real trauma for these families,” says Gina Clowes, founder of allergymoms.com. “In addition, friends and family often don’t ‘get’ food allergies. Parents, particularly moms, bear the brunt of this stress.”
“We underestimate the anxiety that parents feel about taking care of a food-allergic child,” says Rhian Morcott, MD. “The importance of a support group is tremendous.”