As a parent, we want to raise healthy, happy children.
While home due to the pandemic, it’s truly important to key into how our children are feeling. Anxiety and fear may run deep and we want to make sure our children feel loved and supported.
The same is true when having a child with food allergies.
Children don’t like to be different
Most children do not want to be different or stand out from their peers. This puts them in a position of feeling vulnerable and uneasy.
Working to empower our children will give them the strength to understand and take care of themselves when needed.
When my children were diagnosed with Celiac Disease we talked a lot about how that would change our lives:
- our food options needed to change
- eating in a restaurant would be different
- thinking about every bite we take would be necessary
That is a lot to take on for a little child. But it is imperative to teach your child to understand their food allergy.
When you empower your child –
you keep them safe and healthy.
#1: Empower your child by teaching them about safe foods to eat and foods to avoid.
This is so important for them to understand. Depending on the age of your child, the conversation will be a bit different. Start by talking about what you’re eating while around the table. This helps gain an understanding of what is safe for them to eat.
I started eating gluten-free before my children. Each and every night they would quiz me on what I was eating and why – why couldn’t I eat this over that? When they were later diagnosed with Celiac Disease, they had a good transition having already reviewed the foods that I had been eating. They understood some of the basics. Just start talking about food.
#2 Empower your child by teaching them to read labels.
Teach your child to read labels and look for the Gluten-Free Approval stamps on packages. Even a two-year-old can find the GF on a package.
As children develop reading skills, read ingredient lists together to find safe foods. Start pointing out WHY certain foods are not safe for them, or not a healthy choice. Teach them that whole foods, fruits and vegetables, are gluten-free.
Since we are home during a pandemic right now, I will not suggest taking your children to the store to look at labels* – but instead go over labels at home. As they grow you can point out certain ingredients to keep away from and labels to pay attention to such as “made in a dedicated gluten-free facility . . .”
(*Shopping with your child when we are all “back to normal” and SAFE to be out again is a good step for them to practice label reading.)
#3 Empower your child by explaining WHY they cannot eat gluten.
This is a step too many people leave out when starting this journey. It is really important to explain to your child that gluten can harm their body. Yes, they need to understand that when they eat gluten they will get sick, or have reactions, and this, in turn, may cause other issues later in life. (It is important to note that some people do not have outward reactions and are only experiencing internal damage they may not feel through hives, rashes, belly issues, headaches . . .) Explain, that they may not feel it right away, but they can still be hurting their body internally.
Children need to know this is a serious step to take. You harm your body when you eat gluten. This is not to scare your child but to protect them.
My children had a friend who used to eat gluten so that he would get sick and be sent home from school. This is not OK on so many levels. But, it clearly shows us that his parents did not have a conversation with him about how devastating or damaging this could be down the road.
Have the tough conversation and protect your child.
Empowerment = Health
By empowering your child, they will not feel left out when food is passed around and they cannot have what their friends are eating. They will understand that the food is not safe, and how it will make them feel, thus keeping them healthy down the road.
Empower your child by finding safe delicious foods together that they can enjoy so they know that gluten-free living can be healthy and fantastic! Even better get in the kitchen with your children and cook or bake new recipes together!
Let’s empower our gluten-free children
and help them lead a healthy life ahead!