First Rule of Etiquette: When there are plans to get together, there must be open communication regarding snacks, food, and any possible contamination on clothes or body. You don't have to be a scientist and discuss the eight syllable hidden milk ingredients, just be outwardly honest. A simple "hey, we ate pizza for lunch, but I changed the kids clothes and washed their hands" is a perfect response. We feel cautious, but comforted by the efforts and actions taken, and also know how to process the potential dangers when we know the cause. The worst thing we can hear is nothing, and be made to awkwardly and randomly question others. For the most part everything has milk in it, so sharing what form of it you're exposing our child to is very important.
Second Rule of Etiquette: When it comes to shared foods: let us make the executive decisions. I know it's nice to have a handle on the hidden ingredients, and want to show us how you can pick a food that's safe too, but don't. We are never going to feel completely comfortable unless we know the steps we took and did it ourselves. It seems like a great idea to slice fresh fruit for the children to share, but you may not realize that you sliced a block of cheese in the same spot on on your counter earlier. Also, handing over an unmarked food and expecting us to magically know its ingredients is absurd. If something is not in its packaging it's considered not safe. We don't assume, this is why we make the decisions. Although We do appreciate the thought and desire to help, it's much more comforting to take the reigns on this one. Micromanaging the food is our only line of defense and protection for our beloved children.
Third Rule of Etiquette: Don't decide what our kids can attend for us. Although it makes sense that we can't make it to your cheeseburger cookout, if we consider each other close, we should still get invited. Let us explain to our kids that everyone wanted us there and why we chose not to go. Otherwise the underlying message becomes not only were we not invited, but that you chose food over friends/family. These are, again, learning platforms for our children, not judgement platforms for you and yours.
Fourth Rule of Etiquette: Do not talk about your distant opinion of the emotional toll that this food allergy "must have" in front of our children. Our children are developing their self-esteem and self worth, and are constantly being educated about their limitations. They do not need to be emotionally deconstructed for your entertainment and grasp on the matter, just for the sake of conversation. We wouldn't talk openly with children present about weight problems, bad acne, autism, etc., so be mindful of what you say around FA children. They hear and grasp more than you would think. It is not that it isn't valid to have questions and opinions, it's more so that the children don't need to constantly hear them. We focus on what makes us similar, and it seems that most people focus on what makes us different.
Leading to the Fifth Rule of Etiquette: Do not discuss future social events that our children cannot attend in front them. It is understandable to talk about the fun you had at the pizza party last night. It is quite another story to discuss the fun you're going to have when we leave. Especially when we are leaving because you're waiting to whip out the ice cream!
Sixth Rule of Etiquette: DO educate yourself and your children. You don't have to harp on what you can't have or do around FA children. Teach and learn authenticity of what you CAN do. Don't say "you can't have that because of this FA child", say "today we are going to have this and it's going to be great!" We teach attitude toward others, and compassion is a building block of life.
Lastly, the Seventh Rule of Etiquette: When our children are actually having an allergic reaction, please do not get involved unless asked to. Helping them through the reaction is most effective when done by us in a clear and calm way. Reactions can be very scary for us and our children, and the hovering and added drama definitely make things worse. It's best that you stay calm and cheerful (from the sidelines.)