What a BIG transition you face when your gluten-free son or daughter starts college – for the whole family.
I’m writing this after shedding many tears from dropping my daughter off at college this past month.
Everything you have prepared them for is now – this is it.
They are on their own.
Own decisions. Own meals. Own room. Own friends. Own laundry. Own actions and own responsibilities.
You sweat hoping they remember all the things you have taught them, all the rules and morals to live by, all the smart choices to think about, all the scenarios to back away from, and the company to keep.
You fear the worse, yet hope for the best.
You pray they are making good decisions.
You pray that they are making good friends and getting involved with great people.
You hope they choose the right path.
If they are gluten-free in college – you PRAY they are eating safely!
Wow – parents may have way too much to think (and worry) about when kids go away to college. But when you have a child living gluten-free, this adds another layer to the mix.
One of the top needs to survive – eating – can be compromised at any time.
Back when we started exploring colleges and universities, we knew there was a long list to look for:
**choice of study –we toured schools having related courses of study in our daughter’s areas of interest
**size of the school – large, city schools quickly took over a smaller setting
**activities offered – being involved in multiple activities would indeed continue in college life
**location – not too close (mom might pop in unexpectedly!) or too far – too hard to come home when needed
**cost – we visited private and state schools – hoping for scholarships or loans if needed for the right fit
**available food choices – she needed to be able to eat gluten-free in college – easily, every day, in a safe environment, without getting sick
Thankfully, we found all of this where she is now attending and are happy with her choice. Knowing that this university is a good fit definitely gives this mama peace of mind.
Their gluten-free development
As our gluten-free children develop, there are many steps and growths that they discover living this life. My older two were diagnosed when they were in elementary school. My youngest has been gluten-free since birth.
They all have accepted this gluten-free life quite well. (Quite thankful as I know this isn’t always the case.) Danna Korn’s book Kids with Celiac Disease was a lifesaver in helping me explain to my children, back in 2nd &4th grade, how their lives would change.
They had friends who had diabetes, requiring daily shots.
They saw people who needed operations, and they saw people battling diseases such as cancer.
Our children accepted having to change their food in regards to what could have been, to continue to be healthy.
I have watched my daughter accept this diagnosis with grace and move on. She saw definite benefits as she regained her energy, slept better, and had other issues melt away.
Learning to accept responsibility
Through middle and high school, she accepted a gluten-free substitution when celebrating with friends. We made the same, or she brought her own gluten-free food when a meal was provided through the band or other activities she attended.
She never complained.
She learned to speak up at restaurants and ask certain questions to order the meal she wanted. Yes, she made mistakes. Yes, she ended up sick a couple of times. But, she realized which questions she left out, or which restaurants not to return to again.
She hung with friends and ordered her meals. She learned to make simple meals that she enjoyed. Through it all, she learned to eat healthy food and realized what that alone did for her energy, strength and beauty.
We explained that drugs and alcohol contained gluten – and worried about how that would affect her if she tried something on her own. She handled it with great maturity.
Beer funnels and punch made with grain alcohol may be found at parties in college. Of course, the latter isn’t always known by most students until it is too late. This we made sure she definitely understood, along with the consequences that could follow by drinking a grain alcohol punch being gluten-free.
Take away gluten-free college worry with empowerment
Yes, as we send our gluten-free child off to college there is so much more to worry and think about while they are maturing into her own person.
When you have spent all their growing years teaching them, empowering them and educating them about living gluten-free – they grow into their own gluten-free safe lifestyle.
Before my daughter left for school, she asked, “Mom, how am I going to continue to eat so healthy at school?”
I was touched that this is what she was thinking.
My daughter wasn’t just thinking, “How would I eat gluten-free and not get sick”.
She was thinking about powering her body with healthy food. This girl understands her gluten-free life.
She was ready to go out on her own and create her own gluten-free college path.
Now, I am sure she will do her best. And, I am sure she will indulge in the gluten-free ice cream and pizza on campus as well. If I know my daughter, she will find her own hot gluten-free insomnia cookies. Or possibly this is the next business venture I need to start!
I am beyond the moon proud of her and know she will show the world her great strengths in much the manner she always has.
When your child is diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance, empower them with the knowledge they need to lead a healthy, smart gluten-free life they can one day manage on their own when they head off to college.
Today I am a very proud parent of one such child.
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