By Stephanie Sorkin, www.stephaniesorkin.com
I remember walking into the very first birthday party with my food allergic daughter. Completely overwhelmed and unprepared, I looked with horror at children’s messy faces and dirty hands filled with allergens that could potentially send my little girl to the ER.
Fast forward many years and hundreds of parties later and I’m a seasoned professional. After all, most parties are at the same neighborhood places. More times than not, pizza is served and we bring our own cupcake. With a little legwork, we are good to go. This is not to say that there haven’t been bumps in the road, but what once seemed unmanageable, is now under control.
Just when I thought that I could let my hair down, in rolled the piles of Bar and Bat Mitzvah invitations. Brightly colored envelopes in all shapes and sizes! Oh, how the parents agonize over every beautiful detail! How do you navigate an event where food is often the focal point of the celebration? A party in an unfamiliar venue where numerous allergens are present. An event where your child is likely in charge of themselves and most of all…an occasion that your child does not want to miss!
As a parent, I’ve always found that my child’s emotional wellbeing was as important as their physical. Their self-esteem as significant as their health. As a FOOD ALLERGY parent, I have had to switch gears. I work tirelessly to make sure that my child feels included and that occasions like these go smoothly but ultimately, I just want my daughter to be safe. My family is not alone in coping with Food Allergies, as an estimated 13 million Americans under the age of 18 are affected*. Bar and Bat Mitzvahs should be a magical, memorable time in our children’s lives. With the proper planning, they could be safe and enjoyed by all!
TIPS FOR YOUR CHILD TO ATTEND A BAR BAT MITZVAH SAFELY
1. Contact the host when you receive the invitation. First, politely tell the host that you plan on calling the venue to speak to the caterer due to a food allergy. I hesitate to suggest “asking” the host if you can call, as you never know what the response may be. I should note that in my experience, I have never had a request met with anger or resistance. Parents want the party to run smoothly, without incident. Remember, this request should come at least a month before the party. Calling 3 days before the event with a laundry list of questions does not give anyone adequate time to respond. Please be considerate.
2. When you do speak with the caterer, be mindful that they may not be educated in cross contact and contamination. A buffet that starts out safe may not be after excited children start mixing, dipping and sampling the foods. Make your decisions based on your own personal comfort level and your child’s allergy.
3. Don’t demand changes or make special requests. The party is about the Bar or Bat Mitzvah child. It is a very special, momentous occasion and it’s unrealistic to ask for accommodations.
4. If you determine that there is a safe food or foods that your child can eat, discuss this in depth with them. Remind them about safe behavior such as not sharing food and being mindful of the danger of shared plates and utensils.
5. If realistic, assign your child a buddy that they could tell if they are not feeling well. The buddy should be chosen in advance and given thorough instructions to tell an adult should an allergic reaction occur. Speak to the host or responsible adult in advance about the protocol and treatment of a reaction.
6. Send your child with 2 epi-pens, to be kept in a safe, easily accessible location.
7. Feed your child a full meal before they go to the event, even if you have determined that there are safe foods available. When your child arrives full, they will likely hightail it to the games and photo booth then dance the night away!
*United States Census Bureau
ABOUT STEPHANIE SORKIN
Stephanie Sorkin is the award-winning author of “Nutley, the Nut-free Squirrel,” “Chocolate Shoes with Licorice Laces” and “Frenemy Jane, the Sometimes Friend,” available on Amazon. A member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Ms. Sorkin donates a portion of her books proceeds to various charities supporting children.
As a food allergy advocate, Stephanie spends her time visiting schools in the tri-state area, discussing the inspiration behind her books and the importance of creativity. For more information or to inquire about a school visit, please visit www.stephaniesorkin.com. You can find her on social media @stephsorkin
To read more about food allergies, click here.