Wendy Gregory Kaho blogs about the care and feeding of a gluten-free family at Celiacs in the House.
Just as I had to regroup and strategize to send my two gluten-free kids off to college, mothers of preschoolers and kindergartners have to sharpen communication skills and have a game plan for sending their little ones out without Mom looking for gluten hiding everywhere. Teaching kids when they are young to know the rules, know how to ask the right questions and how to find safe food will help them avoid gluten. I’ve gathered my tips and some great resources to help prepare your child and your school.
Communication is key to living gluten free. Discussing your child’s dietary needs with teachers, cafeteria staff, and administrators will become a way of life as your young child steps out into the world without you and into the care of others. Tip sheets for these discussions can be found on the NFCA web site listed below.
Find a support group where you and your child can participate in events with a group that understands your gluten-free lifestyle and experienced moms who can offer advice.
Be prepared. Have safe, gluten-free snacks on hand to tuck into backpacks and lunch boxes or for visits to friends. This is easier than ever with improved labeling and choices in the gluten-free marketplace.
Have a stash of gluten-free cupcakes and pizza at the ready for parties. Use mainstream snacks that are gluten free to look like the rest of the kids if that is important to your child.
Invite friends to your house and feed them the gluten-free food your family eats. Once they see that the food is delicious and your family is still normal, it helps for them to understand celiac disease and how it changes some things, but not everything.
Role-playing with your child about situations where food will be offered and how to handle it politely, but safely will have them prepared when they venture out into the world by themselves.
Involve your child in meal planning, shopping and preparation as well as label reading when they are young and they will be able to spot unsafe foods and understand how recipes are prepared and where gluten might sneak into their meals. Even before they can read, they can remind an adult caregiver to read a label or spot gluten.
Online resources for school-aged children:
Blogs from moms with young children with celiac disease or gluten issues: