In my last post I shared a few tips for raising a gluten-free child that I've applied over the years. But since there is so much Taylor and I have learned, I felt like it was too much to include in one post. There are so many things you learn while raising a kid alone, but raising a kid who is gluten-free as well is a whole other story. Here is part 2 and more tips that we've applied over the years to make going gluten-free for your child easier.
Become Your Child’s Strongest Advocate
Making sure that you stand behind your child and their gluten-free diet is extremely important. Your child needs to feel like he or she is not alone but has someone on their team. When going gluten-free, one of the hardest things to cope with is the feeling of isolation. Work hard to create your home as a safe zone for your child to eat. Also help your child’s friends, parents, teachers, coaches, etc. understand the seriousness of your child’s gluten-free diet and the affects it has on her or him if they do get glutened. Take time to explain what gluten is and the journey your family and child took to learning about their gluten intolerance, allergy or Celiac Disease. I have found that most people are very intrigued and have questions – mostly due to common symptoms or health problems that seem to relate to your story.
Educate Family, Friends, Others and Especially Yourself and Your Child
The most important tool you can have when going gluten-free is the power of knowledge. There are so many valuable resources on the web to help assist you and your family adapt to a gluten-free lifestyle. Take the time to learn about the hidden sources of gluten, alternative flours, and products you can use in recipes to make them gluten-free. Also look up safe places to eat out, some of the hidden dangers when dining out, product lists for grocery shopping, the best ways to recover if you get glutened, etc. Make sure to spend time sharing your knowledge with your child to help them understand their condition and how to eat safely when away from home. When first starting out going gluten-free with Taylor, I created a one sheet piece of paper that explained what Celiac Disease was, what gluten was, and what foods were safe for him to eat. This helped tremendously when going to his grandmas house, to friends for sleepovers, starting a new school year, or when he played sports. I definitely recommend this for your child whenever he / she leaves your home.
Lead by Example
I am a big believer that children follow in the footsteps of their parents, especially when it comes to diet, nutrition, health and wellness. Adapting to a gluten-free diet with your child will help show them that eating gluten-free isn't such a bad thing and that there are many health benefits to someone who is not intolerant, allergic or celiac. It'll show your child that you have their back and that you're along on this ride with them to help them feel as though they are not isolated and alone. We have adapted a rule in our family that when going out to eat we all chose a gluten-free option and in our home we all follow the gluten-free diet. This helps avoid cross contamination issues but it also shows that we are all in on this together and support each other’s general health. It’s extremely hard to tell your child that eating gluten-free isn't all that bad when you are giving them the gluten-free version then you eat the regular version right in front of them. Focus on setting a positive example and by practicing what you preach.