How to Talk to Our Kids About Food Allergies and Inclusion

Sliced Bread with Caution TapeIf you aren’t the parent of a child who has severe food allergies, you may be wondering what this topic has to do with anything Biblical.  The fact is that many parents spend a huge amount of time protecting their children from the hidden dangers that seemingly harmless food items can cause. Reading every label, asking to speak to a restaurant manager before sitting at the table, and providing education to all caregivers is something that these parents do without hesitation. There are many Bible verses about raising up and protecting our kids.  Danger can sometimes be classified as something spiritual, but many times danger also encompasses the physical.  Perhaps a surprising fact to some, a child with food allergies can actually die from complications if mom, dad, teacher or caregiver don’t take the necessary daily precautions to ensure their safety.  I can’t think of any better word to define such daily acts of protection, other than LOVE.

1 John 4:7  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

Kids who have allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, soy, dairy, shellfish or gluten learn early on the importance of how live within their limitations because it can be a matter of life or death.  Most are taught by the time they’re in preschool how to avoid the foods which will hurt them.  Even at this young of an age, they are keenly aware that they can not go anywhere unless an adult accompanying them is carrying their epinephrine pens, oral antihistamines, and an inhaler. This medication arsenal is just something that is taken wherever they go…in case of exposure.  But what do the other kids–or even adults– think about these weird dietary restrictions and precautions? Are kids sometimes ostracized because they can’t eat what other kids eat?

As the mother of a child with a life threatening food allergy, I appreciate the openness of other adults who want to learn how to protect my son when he’s at their house or if they cook food for a gathering, which he’ll be exposed to.  Actually “appreciate” is too mild of a word.  I want to physically hug these wonderful people to express my sincerest gratitude, because for a long time people (even relatives) took my son’s food allergies pretty lightly, even to the point of ignoring simple requests to ensure his safety and my peace of mind.  We missed several parties over the years because the risk of exposure was simply too great to ignore.

We must lovingly educate our kids about a few safety precautions. First, for our kids who DON’T have food allergies, remind them that it’s best if they don’t share or trade their food with another friend, in case there is a food allergy present.  School age kids who DO have allergies need to be reminded to not eat any food with unknown ingredients or known to contain (or may contain) any allergen to which they are sensitive.  This includes foods at any classroom, church or birthday party.

When we talk to our kids about food allergies, we must reassure them that other children who may have a special diet are still just regular kids in most other ways! God created us all to be a little different. In His eyes we are all wonderful in our uniqueness. Our friend may not be able to drink milk or eat eggs, but she likes to play the same games, and watch the same shows that we like.  She likes to dance and swim and ride her bike. It’s okay to invite our friend over after school, and it’s definitely okay to invite he or she to a birthday party!  We can help our kids grow into caring adults when they see us take the extra time to talk to the parents of their friends, ensuring that we can provide a safe environment for everyone.

If you are the parent in charge of bringing in food for a class or church gathering, it’s such a loving gesture to ask if there are any known food allergies which you should be aware of.  Perhaps you can bring in gluten free cupcakes, a fruit platter or fresh veggies and dip. Making these simple additions to party planning enables everyone to feel included.  Inclusion is such an important life lesson to give our children, especially with the prevalence of bullying going on these days.

It has become pretty common to have kids with food allergies in almost every classroom.  Most schools have standards in place to help keep kids safe.  But I urge the parents of kids with food allergies to continue to educate people in authority positions in their churches and any club that kids belong to. Two great sites for resources and downloads are the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and the Food Allergy Initiative.

Lisa Strnad is a freelance writer/blogger, who regularly contributes to What’s in the Bible? and Jelly Telly.  She is a homeschooling mom of two, who works independently in Christian media in the areas of writing, promotions and marketing.  She lives with her husband and children in Nashville,TN.  

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Lisa S.
Lisa S.

Just after I wrote this I found out that my son "tried" a Kit Kat from his brother's Valentine's Day stash. While there's no nuts in the candy, there's a warning about "May Contain". Thank the Lord, He was fine, but of course I watched him like a hawk! It's tough stuff this parenting thing... :)


Thanks for this posting. When I have spoken to other kids about my son's allergy, if he is coming for a playdate, etc, I have used the phrase "This is a way you can show love to him - to put away things that will make him sick and have Mom check the labels." I have written notes to be used by teachers that say "Be a good friend - make snack time safe for everyone." It is totally appropriate to put this issue in the context of love and care for others and teach our kids (and adults) that some of us need to be loved and cared for in very specific ways. If you are a church volunteer or Sunday school teacher, you do a great service to allergic children and anxious parents by getting educated about allergies and ALWAYS having parents approve any snack you might serve. Then parents can go worship without wondering if they'll be leaving church for the ER. That is loving all of us -- and truly living as One Body.


Thank you! We too deal with this! I am always happy when there is a function that does not involve ANY food! ;-) We all (6 in the house) have Celiac, and therefore, we all must be gluten-free (for over 9 years now). PLUS, our 9 year old (who has autism, and doesn't understand the danger of his allergy) has a SEVERE allergy, to wheat. I get accused of being too overprotective (by, I believe, well-meaning, friends, family, and aquaintances), and isolating my family too much, regulary...! :-/ All I end up saying to them is, if you had to be in the ER all hours of the night, in fear for his life (because it is usually a delayed reaction of 1 to 3 hours - part of why he doesn't understand what did it, and makes it hard to pinpoint just where it came from, sometimes), just because he got a crumb of cross-contamination..... I wonder what you would be like... Thank you for posting this article! Also, just as an FYI, my son cannot even play with commercial playdough, as it is made from wheat starch, OR use the clove-smelling classroom paste, and even some finger paints...! Stuff I have to "scout out", before he even goes to a function...! Most people have NO IDEA what it is like to live with these types of issues, AND how expensive it is, just to feed the family (gone are the days of sale bags of flour, pasta, mac and cheese, etc.)! <3