When you find out you have allergies, making a few life changes is not so much an option as a necessity. When you have reactions so bad that they affect how you think and act every moment of the day, you’re almost excited to make changes and relieve the discomfort. The problem is, your family HASN’T been feeling uncomfortable and thinking about your allergies all the time. They have no internal motivation to change. And they have a lot of reasons to want to stick with what works.
Humans may be resilient, but most people are resistant to change. All the reasons why these chemicals were put on the market in the first place are ample reason to want to keep using them for most people. When you have an allergy, though, it’s not just what you put on or in your own body that can affect you. Hugs and kisses, laundry day, bathroom hand towels, hard surface cleaning, and shared beds are just a few of the ways your family’s habits affect you. If you want to get better, you need your family to change with you.
Asking huge changes of people who aren’t experiencing any problems with the status quo is hard. You may encounter resentment about the changes. You may find your loved ones stressed when they realize how many things they have to do differently. You all may find that learning new routines tires you out. Mine checked all of these boxes. Then again, my sweet daughter will sometimes avoid using things in public if she knows that her use of that product will make it so I can’t hold hands with her. So sweet! The bottom line is that you and the people you love can make it through this together.
Here are some tips:
- Don’t try to change everything at once. Start with the worst offenders and change a few things at a time. My worst offenders were laundry detergent and body wash (we were already using alternative hair cleansing routines). From there I’ve moved to dish soap, lotions, shaving cream, furniture polish, and more. It may take many years to get to safer wood finishes on furniture and safer rugs.
- Understand that change is stressful and mental adjustment will take time. Try to plan changes for when everyone has time at home to adjust. If your family is about to go on a trip, it may not be the best time to ask everyone to start composting, recycling, and using reusable trash bags, or using a new alternative toothpaste.
- Don’t expect everyone to immediately know what to do right from the start. Be an educator so that your family understands which things need to change, how, and why. If they don’t realize that whatever is on their hair when they come to bed with you will be spread throughout the bed and affect you, what impetus do they have to change what they do with their hair?
- Make things easier by providing the products needed and explaining how to use them. Consider starting by choosing things that meet your needs but function more closely to how the old ones did. You can always make smaller changes later.
- Look after yourself first and your family second. If you don’t model the behaviours you expect of them, how can you expect your family to follow? Think of it this way: If you said you were deathly allergic to lemons and your family stopped bringing them into the house, how would they react if you went out and bought yourself a big lemon sorbet, claiming, “It’s my favourite dessert! I’m sure I won’t react too badly.” That’s right. Lemons would start appearing in your house again.
Ultimately, it’s a journey and an adventure when you start removing commercial chemical blends from your house. Bringing your family along for the ride is not only a way to support one another, it’s also necessary if you want to stop your allergic reactions. And it might just show you a new way to care for each other. How did your family react to the changes in your home? Comment below.