Any thoughts on/experiences with constantly switching between failsafe and non-failsafe for kids with separated parents? My ex and his family won’t even acknowledge our kids’ bad nut allergies despite a couple of hospitalisations! They "forget" so I have no hope of them acknowledging food sensitivities and they have used artificial colours "against me" on purpose in the past (given boys red frogs just before they are returned to me).

We have been failsafe for four days (been avoiding artificial chemicals for years but it appears natural chemicals are the problem). Changes almost instantly and amazing. I have different children!

Unfortunately I do not have the kids long enough in my care to do challenges properly (10 nights a fortnight but with only 7 days straight).

Is avoiding food chemicals completely part of the time likely to increase bad/extreme reactions? Would this be unhealthy for my kids to switch between low chemical and all chemical diets? Any advice? - Gail


Just going by my son, if he has chemicals just once then it could affect him for a long time, days, weeks. But there is a big difference between his behaviour if he has them now and again, compared to if he has them daily. I think having some additive free days a week is better than none at all. Also you probably are already, but try to make sure your kids know why they eat additive free. Point out to them when their behaviour changes due to additives. Make sure they know that eating better makes them feel better. The best "revenge" on their father and family will be when they turn down the red frogs and other junk because they know it will make them feel bad later - Melanie

That’s a tough one, seems they’re willing to risk kids health for spite? Would having a doctor confirm the nut allergy make them take care? -  Melissa

I've been through this with my ex...not a pleasant situation to be in. My suggestion is to start with a doctor's letter about the nut allergy. If he fails to comply, contact DHS as he is endangering the life of your child. They will contact him and have a word...if he does it again, they'll take action against him (I went through this with my second eldest and his asthma). As for diet, get yourself a dietitian and again, provide the father with a letter. Also, contact the Family Relationships centre and get the ball rolling on some parenting plans/orders and have a clause included that states that all medical and dietary requirements are to be met and that you, the mother, will notify him by email of any and all changes to the children's needs in those areas. I say email because then you'll have an electronic record of all correspondence regarding these me, letters get "lost". Keep a copy of all medical letters sent to your ex and document the dates they were sent (scan and email also, as a precautionary measure). Provide him with names and numbers of all medicos as well - Shawna.

I would stick to the low chemical while you have them. Living with some chemicals in your system some of the time is a much nicer way to live than having high chemicals all of the time. They will be a bit more up & down, which is tough on them, but at least they will feel ok some of the time. As they get older hopefully they will recognise the difference, and speak up & say, I don't want to eat that! Good luck, it's a very difficult situation - Renee

I think Shawna has a great long term plan on how to force control, I am lucky to have family that helps. But I think going strict on and off is just really hard on the system in general, I have seen in my own children that consistency changes things, it takes their little bodies so long to heal. What I would do is maintain low as you can at home, marathon cook pre visits so they are getting at least some of the food their bodies can work with, and work really really hard on getting some legal help on your side. Depending on how old the kiddos are I would really work on them, more than on the inlaws/ex. I would have them write or describe for you how they feel each day, how much trouble they’re getting into, how hard it is to control themselves etc.  Start having THEM refuse the foods that inlaws are shoving down their throats, let them be the one to offer up something from their stash as a replacement so they can feel good.

I only say all of this because I have an ASD 5 yr old boy that has extreme fructose malabsorption and many other food related issues and has been on a strict diet for a long time. Family support was great but the early years were all about him sneaking foods. Between 4 and 5 we started doing the above with him, we made funny names for some of the symptoms like "fire poop" and made it kinda fun for him to understand his own body, and due to delayed reactions to foods we had to really help him understand what caused what. We allowed him things and said "this is going to give you your tummy aches, but if you really want to have it I will let you have a small amount so you can see" Later when he was uncomfortable I would remind him gently "this is why mommy says no to so many foods, like that apple you ate today. Because I don’t like it when you are hurting I would rather make you special food that doesn’t make you hurt".  It only took a couple of special allowances, and never did he ask for the same one again, for him to totally grasp the concept, within a very very short time he stopped asking for things he knew were off limits, Instead of trying to sneak away with a candy someone gave him he would trade it to us, or just refuse it with "I have allergies". He tells his teachers and friends that he cannot have this or that freely and is no longer feeling like he "can’t" but now like he "doesn’t want to!" - Adrianne

We have the same issue. It's impossible but at least my stepsons’ mother values "natural" foods. But her refusal to believe in Twin One's MAJOR amine intolerance is ridiculous. She TOLD him to eat the chocolate cake then complained she didn't want custody of him because he was too aggressive and violent. Got nowhere with dietician letters etc. Mediation not an option either. SIGH it's hard. Shawna your suggestions are great  - Megs.

I've had the same problem and battled for nearly a year before my ex finally realised the effects of foods. I have my son 2.5 weeks out of every three so was never able to do challenges although there was some foods I knew were definitely out. I just now keep it failsafe as much as possible. It's hard but like others have said it's better to minimize the chemicals as much as possible. I also always gave my son a bath in Epsom salts (about 1/2 cup Epsom salts and 1/4 cup bicarb in a third full big bath for my nearly 7 year old) the first two nights he was back to help speed elimination of chemicals - Vanessa

Do the best you can for your kids while you have them then throw them in a bi carb bath when they get home from the exs.  It might help with the fallout. As for your ex and new partner how bloody rude and irresponsible - Leanne

I find going high and low leaves me feeling worse (and better) at times than before going failsafe. I wonder if moderate failsafe might be the option for you until you can work out some parenting plans (e.g. Shawna's suggestions) and then go from there - Janelle.

Really feel for your situation.  I did FS with my then 4 1/2 year old daughter and explained it all to her. She thankfully understood and would say to people that she was allergic! It was enough for them to stop and ask me of it was ok. I know you don't have that option, but getting the kids (if they are old enough) on board might be the only strategy available for you! - Megan

If your child can swallow capsules, you can fill them with bicarb. My younger has probiotics that I have to empty out, and I fill the capsules with bicarb for the older one - seems to work on him - Alice (see link to bicarb antidote at bottom of this story)

I too have the same issue whereas my son's father doesn't believe in food intolerances, although there has been fantastic improvement at his school, after school care and in my home. I bought my son the book 'Oscar's lunchbox', it's fantastic in that he understands why we are doing what we are doing, not to mention he knows he is a lot calmer in his self and doesn't get in trouble as much. I constantly praise him about his good behaviour and link it back to the food so he is aware within himself. The problem I have is his father will not acknowledge this and when my son goes crazy over there and says to his dad it's the food he has given him, he tells him it's rubbish. I do the Epsom salt baths when he comes back from staying with his father just to assist in eliminating the toxins. The other thing I have done when told by my son he has been given something, for example, custard, I say to him, do you have custard when you are here with mummy? And try and let him know if he has not had it here, he should not be having it there. It is hard, especially with a young one as they don't get to have the voice as an older child. I am just persevering as best I can in this situation, however you cannot help but think it is like child abuse in a way, giving them foods that react in their body - Rae

Gail responds: So nice again to hear I am not the only one!!! So what do you do Rae when you get your son back from seeing his dad? Does he go to straight to school after contact?

He does go straight to school after contact on a Monday morning and I pick him up that afternoon, however the school is well aware of what I am doing and they are behind me 100% as they see the improvement also, which makes their life easy. They are aware of the timeframes he is with his Dad and with me and give him a little more space if he starts to misbehave for the first couple of days after being dropped off by dad knowing he doesn't follow the failsafe diet like he should. My suggestion is to be open and honest about the whole situation to those who need to know, like the school, etc. My pride would get in the way in terms of not speaking out of school regarding the shortcomings of his dad, but found as long as you discuss these issues without your child in earshot, you will get a lot of support and empathy for that matter as it is not easy dealing with a child who has meltdowns and I have been told numerous times that I am doing a good job helping my son to be better within himself - Rae.

Gail responds: Have you considered replacing the contents of the lunch box?

I'm unable to do this as I don't pick him up until around 5.30pm in the afternoon, there have been times where I have found a chicken leg in his lunch box, great considering he's intolerant to amines, At the end of the day, you can only do what is within your control, it's hard enough raising a child with intolerances to add the never ending arguments on top of this. I just know what I'm doing is benefiting my son and thankfully he's in my care more than in he's his dad's over a fortnight, so that's in my favour and my little boy when it comes to ensuring he is getting the correct foods - Rae

See bicarb antidote

See factsheet on divorced families and coping with diet for more ideas