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Over the years, I’ve learned that my story is not unique; many parents have similar issues with family members. So here are my tips for creating safe boundaries in your home and theirs during the holidays:
Essential Tips for the Holidays
• Ask and you shall receive. People don’t like to come to a holiday celebration empty-handed, so address your concerns up front by saying something like, “You don’t need to bring anything, but if you plan to bring food, would you let me know? Nathan has food allergies and I want to be able to serve what you bring.”
• Safe haven. Don’t feel obligated to serve unanticipated food gifts, like the nut rolls, chocolate candies and cheese logs that are so common during the holidays. Put the unsafe offerings away, and use the situation as an opportunity to politely explain to guests why you choose not to serve these foods in your home.
• Model home. When guests are helping you in your kitchen, take the opportunity to educate them and build awareness. As you remove cookies from the pan, explain that desserts and candies are the foods most associated with severe allergic reactions and that even invisible traces can cause a severe or even fatal reaction.
• Tag team. Toddlers and preschoolers move from room to room quickly. Have a trusted adult’s eyes on them at all times. Take turns with your spouse or a trusted friend so you can enjoy your meal or a conversation, too.
• First in line. At another’s home, discreetly ask your hostess if your child can be served first if there is a buffet. This way, if there are a few “safe” items, you won’t have to worry about guests cross-contaminating them with shared utensils.
• Just say no. Teach your child how to politely decline food offered by well-meaning adults. When my son was little, our rule was: You can only take food from Mom, Dad or Grandma.
Next page: The Backup Plan