It's never easy being a parent to a child with peanut allergies, but Halloween is especially challenging because candy seems to be everywhere. That's why Tia Mowry — whose 7-year-old son, Cree, is one of the 1.5 million children in the United States with a peanut allergy — wants parents to be especially aware of what their kids are eating.
In fact, she just helped launch the Talking Peanut Allergy campaign, which aims to start a conversation about the challenges that families with a child who has a peanut allergy face.
“I feel like, thank God, [in] my family, we have done a great job at protecting my son from accidental exposure, but that doesn’t take away the worry that I have on a daily basis,” Mowry tells SheKnows.
And Mowry's not alone in her concern. According to the Living With Peanut Allergy Awareness, Attitude and Daily Impact Survey, sponsored by DBV Technologies, 60 percent of parents of children with peanut allergies report that stress caused by their child's allergy is part of their everyday life. Furthermore, almost half (48 percent) are worried about being perceived as overprotective in dealing with their child’s peanut allergy.
Given how many parents of kids with peanut allergies feel judged, Mowry encourages them to speak up and not be afraid to share their story. She says it can also help other parents feel less alone.
Mowry is also hoping to reach parents of kids who don't have a peanut allergy.
“I call them, I want to call them, ‘co-protectors,’ which is because we all can be helpful in creating a community where people are aware of children with a peanut allergy,” she explains. “We all can help. The more information that they know, and the more information they have to be educated about it, the better it is for the child, [and] the better it is for the parents.”
Cross-contamination of peanuts, which can leave trace amounts of the allergen, is another concern for Mowry, but she has taught her son the importance of asking about food before eating it.
Because Cree was diagnosed when he was 3 years old, it's something Mowry has spoken to him about from an early age.
“I don’t think you’re ever too young to spark up that conversation or to start talking about the dialogue of protecting your family and your child,” she says. “Children are smart — they’re smarter than you know or think.”
The other important part about talking to your kids about having a peanut allergy, Mowry says, is making sure it doesn't make them feel like there's something wrong with them.
“It’s very challenging to have that conversation with your 3-year-old,” she explains. “And for me, even now that he’s 7 — he’s still a kid — the challenge I have is making him not feel less-than — making him not feel different. I don’t want him to feel different in any kind of way, so for me, it’s all about, ‘OK you may not be able to have that, but you can have this.’ So I think that’s the biggest challenge for me.”
Fortunately, Mowry has some tricks up her sleeve to make sure her son feels included during snack time.
“Sunflower butter is the best — we have tubs of that in the house,” she says.” It’s so delicious. It has such a nice creamy texture to it. You can throw it in anything: You can put it in a smoothie. You can make a sandwich out of it. You can put it on some crackers. You can put it on some vegetables… I think those are some fun, great snacks that [ensure] he doesn’t feel less-than in any way.”
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I keep most things private, but today, I want to share something with you that many of you do not know about me. My son Cree is one of 1.5 million children in the U.S. living with peanut allergy. "Is a peanut allergy really that serious?" The simple answer is "yes." Exposure of even trace amounts of peanut can trigger a potentially severe, life-threatening reaction, and that's stressful for children and their parents. Avoidance isn't always possible. I never make a decision about where Cree goes or what he eats without considering the risk of exposure. I want to educate others on what it's like to live with peanut allergy and that's why I have partnered with DBV Technologies on the Talking Peanut Allergy campaign. This campaign is so personal for me and I want to share my experiences to help spark a dialogue. If you're caring for a child with peanut allergy, or know someone who is, know you're not alone! Sign up for more stories, tips and resources on TalkingPeanutAllergy.com #ad
Outside the world of peanut allergies, Mowry is keeping busy between her YouTube video series Tia Mowry’s Quick Fix on her channel and a new television show on Netflix called Family Reunion that she’s starring in alongside Loretta Devine.
But the big question remains: Will there be a Sister, Sister reboot? Mowry says she doesn’t know if that’s happening, but fans of the show can catch the next best thing: a new Lifetime movie coming out on Nov. 21 in which Jackée Harry and Tim Reid (her Sister, Sister costars) play her parents.
Mowry’s other new project is a Christmas movie called A Gingerbread Romance, which premieres Dec. 15 on the Hallmark Channel — and she’s letting us in on a delicious little behind-the-scenes secret.
“It’s like Christmas every day on set, for like 21 days,” Mowry explains. “And actually, the cookies and pies were all real on set. I’m like ‘how did you guys do that?’ It was lovely.” Let’s hope that all proper precautions were taken to prevent accidental peanut exposure in the baked goods.