I am JJ: 12 Words all Young People With Food Allergies Should Know

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Any parent of a child with a food allergy quickly becomes an expert at reading ingredient statements.

It always amazes me how quickly and effectively my mom can assess a label. There could be 30 ingredients… written in 3 point, blurred type… and from 20 feet away, with the item tilted on the top shelf, she’ll say, “Grab the green box!”

In the food allergy world, we live by labels and ingredients, which is why so many of us continue to advocate for clear and complete statements. It’s serious business, and I applaud all of you for fighting for those of us whose very lives depend on accuracy.

We in the FA world understand that the end product is almost always made up of smaller components.

And this isn’t just for food. There is incredible value in applying this same concept to things beyond what we eat.

As I prepared to write my book for children with food allergies, Land of Not, and as I prepared to launch an authentic blog for parents and children, I talked to a lot of professionals about what it takes for young people to live an asset-based life. “How do we get kids to define themselves by who they are and who they can be, instead of by who they’re not?”  

I kept hearing the following traits time and time again. These words became the basis for Can.

In yesterday’s CANspirational video, I introduced “The 12 Words of Can.” Each week, I’m going to be exploring one of these pathways more in depth. Sometimes, I’ll create a short lesson around it. Sometimes, I’ll interview an expert or someone who embodies that specific trait.

Here are the tools of Can.

  • Collaboration
  • Opportunity
  • Empathy
  • Grit
  • Resilience
  • Creativity
  • Perseverance
  • Leadership
  • Character
  • Integrity
  • Courage
  • Balance

I am going to use my daily blog to advocate for young people living with food allergies and for the families who care for them. I believe all children should live in the Land of Can, but it’s even more vital for children with food allergies, because living with a food allergy introduces young people to their “nots” far too early and far too often. In a nod to safety, children with food allergies confront their "nots" as a mode of survival. 

I said yesterday that knowing these words is better than winning the lottery. The lottery is temporary. Adapting a Can mindset is lifelong. This isn’t hyperbole. I see other people my age who have spent their childhoods living in The Land of Can. And these people are ready to take on the world! I’ve also seen the inverse. 

This is a message to all parents and educators and anyone who works with children. We must begin to empower young people, especially those who live with food allergies, to focus on "cans," not "nots." And we must do it sooner than later. 

Welcome to The Land of Can.