A new diagnosis of a gluten allergy or intolerance can be challenging to you and your newly gluten free child. First, there are the changes to the home environment, such as stocking your kitchen with gluten free items like baking mixes and cereals and getting rid of all the gluten containing foods. You also have to create new gluten free family dinner recipes and gluten free after school treats that the whole family will like. But what happens your gluten free child isn’t at home and you’re not there to monitor what they’re eating at school or a friend’s home? Here are tips on 5 Ways to Help Your Gluten Free Child:
Help your gluten free child be independent – How much they can manage their gluten free diet on their own depends on their age. For younger children, you can help them practice saying, “I’m gluten free,” when you’re at a restaurant or visiting friends. If they’re older, teach them how to read labels to spot gluten containing foods. You can also teach them what foods they should avoid or ask an adult about. You can role play by asking, “What would you do if?" Talk about how to handle being offered food at school or a friends home and asking an adult to help him or her figure out if the food is gluten free or not.
Older kids can be embarrassed or upset about being newly gluten free. Give them a chance to talk about it with you or arrange for them to speak with a counselor at school. They may think of themselves as different or weird when all they want to do is fit in. This attitude may set them up for cheating on their gluten free diet, which may make them sick – or worse.
Help the teachers understand your gluten free child’s allergy or intolerance – Have chat with your gluten free child’s teachers about their new gluten free allergy or intolerance diagnosis. Bring in some shelf stable snacks and treats to keep in their homeroom. Udi’s Gluten Free cookies are perfect for most teachers to stash away in their “treat drawer” or closet. That way when there’s a birthday party and cupcakes are being served, your son or daughter will have their own gluten free goodie waiting for them.
For teenagers, you may be tempted not to let the teachers know your child is gluten free, especially once they enter high school and can manage their gluten free diet on their own. Instead, you and your gluten free child may want to make an appointment with the school counselor to discuss gluten free foods that are available in the cafeteria, school store and school vending machines or other ways that the school can help meet your gluten free child’s needs.
Educate other parents about your gluten free child’s diet – is your child going on a play date, party or sleepover? Talk to the other parent about what’s OK for your gluten free child to have before you get there. Offer to pack a lunch or snack to bring along. If cross contamination is a big issue for your gluten free child, maybe it’s easier to have the play date or sleepover at your home.
Advocate on behalf of your gluten free child – talk with daycare providers, school staff and administration, camp counselors, church or synagogue staff, grandparents and other relatives, and so on about the health needs and challenges facing your gluten free child. Don’t assume they know what being gluten free is all about. Bring along or email them links to helpful information from the Celiacs Disease Foundation and Udi’s Gluten Free.
Make it easier for your gluten free child to cope – If your kitchen isn’t completely gluten free, come up with a system making it easy for your gluten free child to identify what’s gluten free. GlutenFreeLabels.com has a terrific kit of labels and tags for foods and cooking utensils. Or you can come up with your own system, like anything with a green dot sticker is OK to eat. Stock up on your gluten free child’s favorite snacks and treats so they don’t feel left out at parties or celebrations. Make a list of foods that can have hidden gluten for them to carry in their purse or backpack.
Finally, talk with your gluten free child about their new diagnosis. Ask them how they’re feeling about and what they find frustrating. Then give them a big hug and assure them that you’re in this together!
Learn more about living gluten free! Visit http://udisglutenfree.com/community
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Udi's Gluten Free. The opinions and text are all mine.