When my wife and I got engaged, we were both thrilled, knowing we were going to spend the rest of our lives together. Then we realized that promising “I Do” also meant we would each also have (ominous drum roll please) … In-Laws (personally, I like to call mine “Outlaws”!).
Okay, I’m really just kidding. Although in-laws are the butt of too many jokes, my wife and I are lucky to be raised by some pretty awesome people. And when we had kids, they became great, supportive grandparents.
Of course, not everyone is that lucky. And, unfortunately, I know some of you food allergy parents out there struggle to get in-laws (and other family members) to understand your child’s health condition. Usually it’s because Grandma and Grandpa love the kids so much they just can’t imagine not giving them Easter eggs or birthday cake. Or they’re sure that just a little something special won’t hurt, even if your son can’t have anything but Neocate and carrots.
I think, in most cases, the best way to deal with this is to make your parents and in-laws a partner in your child’s health. Explain to them exactly what your kid can and cannot have, what a reaction looks like and what to do if your child has a reaction. Sometimes showing them how to use the EpiPen really brings it home. I think it is also important to reinforce to your family that the time your kids spend with their grandparents is what is really valuable – whether or not a milk shake is involved. (This is easy for too many families to forget since, unfortunately, so many American activities revolve around food.)
Of course, you do have to protect your child at all costs. You can’t let anyone -- family members or otherwise – babysit if they don’t understand your child’s food allergies.
But, hopefully, with some time and communication, your parents and in-laws can not only “get it” but also be some pretty valuable extra pairs of hands for you and your family.
And, if you’re one of the lucky ones with the parents/in-laws who already “get it,” don’t forget to give ‘em a hug and a smooch once in a while to tell them how awesome they are.