It is one thing to be gluten free as the adult, or the parent, but when your kid has to be gluten-free, it is a whole new ballgame. You worry about how they are going to feel about it, how are they going to go to birthday parties or handle school events or just have a play date with friends? How are you helping them cope?
Helping Your Gluten-Free Child Cope
Here are my top tips to help your gluten free kid cope:
Have a professional tell your child they need to be gluten-free.
Sometimes we as parents want to try going gluten-free to see if it will help, and this is a fantastic step to take. But, sometimes this just sets things up for some resentment or frustration within your relationship. If you can, talk through it with your child’s doctor, nutritional therapist or other holistic health care worker and have them say these words to your child. This keeps you from being the bad guy and makes compliance a little easier.
If your child is gluten-free, the house is gluten-free.
In the initial weeks of the adjustment, it can be particularly challenging when going to school, a friend’s house or just out at all and every where your child turns there is yet another ‘off-limits’ food. It is really nice for your child to be in a house where nothing is off-limits. Having the home be a 100% safe zone is comforting. Everyone eats the same foods, and no one is on a ‘special’ diet. This is by far, the most important step to helping your child cope.
Talk with your child about safe foods.
Suddenly, it could feel like everything is off limits to your child. This can feel so overwhelming. Take some time to walk through your house or fridge and talk through all the foods that are naturally gluten-free. What are some of your child’s favorite foods that are already gluten-free? Favorite snacks? Favorite dinners? Favorite breakfasts? This also helps them be prepared for those inevitable moments when a snack or lunch doesn’t get packed and they are at a friend’s house and need to communicate what they CAN have.
Helping by preparing for birthdays and celebrations.
Your child will be heading to birthday parties, and there will be cupcakes and pizza. There will be birthday celebrations, talent shows and holiday parties at school with more cupcakes. Send a special treat in for those celebrations so they don’t arrive hungry and empty-handed. Making a batch of cupcakes/muffins and freezing them is a simple way to always be ready for the last-minute celebrations. Other times it is a special treat from the store that your child will be excited to have in lieu of whatever will be served.
When heading to restaurants, check the menu ahead of time.
Whenever possible, sit down with your child to review the menu options before you go. Obviously, when it works it is AWESOME to find a 100% gluten free restaurant and to get the “I can eat anything?!?” response. But when you can’t, prep the battlefield so to speak so they head into the restaurant with an idea in their head of what they can have.
It’s ok if it isn’t perfect at the beginning, or ever.
It won’t be perfect, there will be mistakes, there will be slip-ups and I forgot, or I didn’t think about it, or I didn’t check that. It’s OK! Mistakes are how we learn. And as your child heals, they may actually have bigger reactions to the gluten. As stinky as it is to watch, this also helps your child own it and want to avoid gluten too. Take this one day at a time and remember the body always wants to heal. Even on the bad days, it is working to heal and tomorrow will be better.