Celiac is still one of the most commonly misdiagnosed diseases, but in the last several decades, people have become more aware of it. Because of improved diagnosis, more and more people are being diagnosed with celiac as children. Spotting it early on prevents the serious complications from untreated celiac, like malnutrition, neurological problems, and cancer. All the negative side effects from this disease can be reversed by adhering to a strictly gluten-free diet. However, following this diet is not easy – especially for children who will be handed forbidden food by the well-meaning, yet ignorant, adults in their lives. Here are some suggestions for keeping your child gluten-free.
1. Join Your Child – Celiac is a genetic disease, so if your child has it, you probably have it as well. Since it is commonly missed by medical professionals, the fact that you may not have been diagnosed with it yet doesn’t mean that you don’t have it. Plus, the symptoms vary significantly from person to person, so you may not exhibit the same symptoms that your child did. So it’s a good idea for everybody in the family to go gluten-free if one member of the household has it. Besides, your child with celiac will appreciate the support of his family.
2. Involve Your Child – You can’t be with your child every second of every single day, so it is essential that your child learn how to manage his diet on his own. Let him help you prepare his gluten-free meals, and teach him how to check the labels for the things that he can’t have. Your child will be less likely to resent his special diet if you treat it as a challenge rather than a tragedy. Make it a game to find new foods that he can have. Not only will it keep his spirits up, but it will also teach him the skills he will need for gluten-free living as an adult.
3. Raise Awareness – If the world is to become more celiac-friendly, more people need to know what it is. As the word has spread, companies and restaurants are producing more gluten-free food. As more people know about it, more gluten-free products will be developed, and the easier it will become to live a normal life on a gluten-free diet. Consequently, raising awareness about this condition is one of the best things you can do for your child with celiac. Unfortunately, it is also one of the hardest. Celiac is hard to explain to people. Their eyes glaze over as they smile and nod while everything you say flies straight over their heads. They may say that they understand, but the next time you visit their house, they serve your child something that is most definitely not gluten-free. As frustrating as it may seem, don’t stop educating people about celiac.
Being diagnosed with celiac as a child has its pros and cons. Children who grow up without tasting glutenous foods will not miss them. However, kids are more likely to struggle with the social implications of celiac because they do not want to be viewed as a freak by their peers. But with the support of family and an increasingly celiac-friendly society, your child can lead a normal life.
Ken holds a master’s in business leadership from Upper Iowa University and multiple bachelor degrees from Grand View College. As president of morningsidenannies.com, Ken’s focus is helping Houston-based parents find the right childcare provider for their family. When he isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his three children and his wife.