Guest post by Jereann Zann of celiacmama.com.
Raising a child with celiac disease has its own set of challenges, but once you develop a solid understanding of what gluten is and how to avoid it, you can get back to focusing on what childhood is supposed to be about – THE FUN!
We were first introduced to the gluten free world in 2014 when our daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease at the age of two. My best advice to families that have a recently diagnosed child is to educate yourself on gluten and celiac disease as thoroughly as possible, learn to cook and bake gluten free, and stay positive.
Educate Yourself. Meeting with your child’s pediatric gastroenterologist is important and may seem obvious, but I also highly recommend scheduling at least one meeting with a pediatric nutritionist. Why? Because developing children have different nutritional needs than we do as adults, and it’s important to make sure they get the nutrients they need to grow properly on a gluten free diet.
I also advocate reading books about celiac disease and gluten free living- books by medical experts and GF cookbooks for you, and children’s books. Children learn so much through stories, and books about celiac disease or eating gluten free speak to them in a language they understand. I’ll never forget how my daughter regularly carried “Gluten Free With Emily” around the house. She would ask us to read it over and over again. In many ways she was too young to fully understand what it meant to have celiac disease, but even at two years old her interest in the book showed her awareness and how much she wanted to understand.
Learn to cook and bake! This is key for two reasons. First, you have the best chance at controlling the environment and knowing exactly what your child is eating when you make it yourself. Second, cooking with your child will help them develop a positive relationship with food. We have a rule in our house: if our daughter sees a food with gluten in it at school or at a birthday party that she really wants to try, she has to tell us about it and we do our best to recreate it in our kitchen. It’s fun and it furthers the message that while she has to avoid gluten, she doesn’t have to live without or sacrifice normalcy.
One of the first gluten free product recommendations we received was for Breads from Anna baking mixes. My kids love them because they’re delicious., and I love them because of the quality ingredients. They’re also simple to bake with, which makes them kid-friendly.
Stay Positive. My last piece of advice is to stay positive. Raising a gluten free child is challenging, but try to remember to be grateful that celiac disease is managed through diet rather than a lifelong need for medications and therapies. I know at times it’s overwhelming, not just in the beginning but when your child enters a new school or goes out to eat, for example. As a parent you want your child to be safe, and once you’ve seen your child get glutened you want to avoid it all costs. It’s natural to worry, but children are like sponges and they pick up on your anxiety. So, if you feel like you’re having difficulty managing your anxiety talk to someone.
If you’re looking for more helpful tips we’ve gained from navigating gluten free life as a family, I regularly share tips and simple recipes at www.celiacmama.com.