So your child needs to eliminate gluten from their diet. It’s ok, It’s getting more and more common for kids to be gluten free. Gluten free kids are on the rise! More children are getting diagnosed with celiac disease or identified as gluten intolerant. I think it’s because there is more awareness today than ever before.
So relax, it’s really going to be fine. We have two children in our house who eat a gluten free diet. Over the next few paragraphs I want to drop some gluten free knowledge bombs on you that may help you no matter where you are in your gluten free journey with your kids.
A little background
In our house, 2 out of 3 kids eat gluten free. Jack and Abigail choose to be gluten free. They say they feel better and have less belly aches. Allie is not officially gluten free, but when she’s with us, she embraces it. We are a blended family, so Allie is with us at various times throughout the year and Jack and Abigail are with us all the time. So we have a variety of experience with gluten free children!
There are challenges when everyone eats a little differently. Here are my best tips on how to raise gluten free kids!
1. Find gluten free alternatives to their favorite dishes
The gluten free world continues to grow. There are so many gluten free alternatives for our previously gluten filled lives. You just have to explore the options.
Let your child know that their favorite dishes are not going away. If they love pizza, there are tons of gluten free pizza options out there. If they need to have chicken nuggets… yup those are out there too.
It might take a little searching depending on their preferences, but I have yet to not find a way to either purchase or make at home all of my favorite dishes. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
2. Get them in the kitchen
There is some exploring to do. If your child is old enough, get them in the kitchen with you. Some quality time using those all new to you gluten free flours. Preparing new meal ideas. quality time together can be spent in the kitchen.
If they are more involved in the process, they will have some ownership of their meals and take pride in what you all have created. I’d say there is a higher probability of them actually eating it even if it doesn’t turn out as planned!
3. Communicate prior to social events
Kids love birthday parties, social gatherings or even sleepovers. It’s part of life. These events now have new hurdles. Your child is going to go to the party, see the other kids eating cake, pizza, and all the food they can no longer eat. There will be sadness, jealously, and general irritation felt by your child. That’s normal, but we as parents can help.
Call ahead and see what the event will be like. Talk to the other parent! These days there is a good chance your child is not the only one with some type of allergy. Talk to their parent and let them know what your child needs. If you get to them early enough, they may have time to grab your little one something special.
For example, Just last month we were at a soccer tournament for Jack. Most parents know he is gluten free because we have had team events and dinners before. Well, one of his teammates had a birthday and the parents brought cupcakes for all the boys after one of the games. Might sound like a nightmare… well they brought Jack his own gluten free cupcake. It was all good!
We have sent the kids to parties with their own piece of cake or cupcake. When we send the kids for a sleepover, we talk to the parents. Send them with some gluten free food. When we have a good relationship established with the other family, they already know what we need and have always had nothing but support. It just comes down to being a good advocate for your child. Communicate what they need and you will find other parents will support them all the way. At the end of the day, we all just want our kids to have a great time at their events with their friends.
4. Don’t make it a big deal
It’s only a big deal if you make it a big deal… so don’t. Your child will feed off of how you handle this transition. If you get visibly upset, talk about how hard it is, make them feel like a burden, they are going to feel that way as well.
Being gluten free is not a burden and here is a quick post on why. Just be cool, be calm, and get your cook on! Have a positive attitude and your child will follow you. You know as well as I do, our children are always watching us. Monkey see, monkey do… right?! haha
5. Try new foods
So you have them in the kitchen with you, you guys have a positive attitude, now you can explore a bit. Use this as an opportunity to try new foods. Taste buds seem to always be changing, maybe this is a time for you to see if your child wants to try something they previously disliked…or thought they disliked. If they are preparing the dish with you, I’ll put some money on the fact that they will probably give it a real try.
6. Get the whole house involved
If you can make your whole house gluten free do it! Might sound harder than you think, but it’s really the best thing you can do for your child especially if they are very sensitive. I’m not saying mom, dad, brother and sister need to be 100% gluten free all the time for one child who can’t eat gluten; however, I will say I would try it. Make it a family practice. You know your kids best, but if mom and dad are eating gluten free… it’s a matter of time before the rest fall in line.
If your house has no gluten, you remove the temptation for your child. They are kids, even if they are celiac, they are going to want to sneak a bite. They may even be too young to understand what’s going on. Having your house 100% gluten free, gives you the peace of mind and helps keep your child feeling healthy.
Depending on the size and personality of your household, there is no perfect way to do this. Aimee has been gluten free for many years. When we first started dating, she was the only one in the house gluten free. I kept snacks in the cupboard and I’m sure that was hard for her. I decided to become gluten free and then Jack and Abigail were right there behind me. When it’s just the 4 of us, we are 100% gluten free all the time now. When we have Allie with us, the house is still 100% gluten free and Allie embraces it, but if we are out at a restaurant, Allie is free to order whatever she pleases.
Relax, breath, ask gluten free questions!
So those are my best tips for raising gluten free children. The key to remember is to not get overwhelmed. This is becoming more and more common and there are many parents going through the same thing. Reach out and connect with people. Ask a lot of questions.
Raising children is hard work so look for resources. Even if it’s not gluten related questions, there are good resources out there like Parental Questions run by my friend Mo.
Have questions or comments for me? Ask away!