I am JJ: Let's help kids with food allergies & their families thrive!


This post originally appeared in May 2018.

Now that I’m home from college, I’ve been visiting with family. Yesterday, I had a great talk with my grandparents. They were asking me about my college semester and my upcoming summer internship.

But their real interest was this blog.

My paternal grandparents are not tech savvy. They don’t own a computer. They don’t own a cell phone. And thus they never have read this blog. So I showed them my blog posts. They had a lot of questions, especially about the goals for www.thelandofcan.com.

I told them my goal is to raise awareness about living with food allergies, to share my experiences with other young people with allergies and with their parents so that they can thrive.

I emphasized the word “thrive!” because it’s a word my grandfather always uses.

During our discussion, I asked my grandparents what advice they’d have for me on how to best relay this information so that parents will use it. Yes, they’re from a different parenting generation. But their thoughts were spot on.

“All parents love their children and want to do what’s best for them,” my grandmother said. “They just need to know what best is for their children.”

Added my grandfather:  “Sometimes parents don’t know what’s best. Sometimes they ignore what’s best. Sometimes their life circumstances get in the way and they can’t always do what’s best. But it doesn’t mean they don’t want what’s best. They do. All parents do.”

And how should I go about giving this advice?

“Whatever approach you take, don’t alienate a parent. Don’t shame them. Don’t make them feel guilty. Don’t play the ‘I told you so’ game. Don’t do something that makes them feel like you just wrote ‘You are the worst parent in the world!’ across their forehead with a black Sharpee. Whenever someone is giving a parent advice, they must present it right or they shouldn’t present it at all.”

It was fun talking to my grandparents about my blog, especially their perspective on making a difference. I think all of us who live in the food allergy community can agree that living with an allergy poses many physical and emotional challenges that others outside our community simply don’t deal with. And once we agree that we are dealing with a highly-charged issue, we must also agree that emotions may run higher than normal, especially when parents, armed with limited knowledge, are advocating for their children. This isn’t a parenting question about whether Pampers is better than Huggies or whether Tommy should get a cell phone at 10 or at 12 or at 17. A misstep here can be frighteningly dangerous.

So let’s all in the allergy community reaffirm our commitment to help each other, to continue to use our life experiences to make a difference. Our ultimate goal for every family dealing with food allergies is to give them the tools to safely navigate their worlds so that when the time comes they will thrive!