2 October 2020

How to support your child with coeliac disease

What you can expect once your child has been diagnosed with coeliac disease

When your child is diagnosed with coeliac disease, it can be difficult to know what to expect. What types of foods can they eat? How will this affect the rest of your family’s eating habits? How can you explain this to them in a clear and simple way? 

Fortunately, there is a lot of information available about coeliac disease, alongside plenty of guidance for you and your family. The most important thing is to be proactive and identify solutions.

After the initial diagnosis, it may take some time to adjust your mindset towards a gluten-free diet for your child. More specifically, you now have to give more thought towards exactly what your child can and cannot eat. 

It’s important to note that many of your child’s favourite foods can be recreated using gluten free recipes, with lots of great ideas available online. One thing is for sure, you won’t be stuck for ideas! 

You can also follow the many gluten free food bloggers on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest who are continually posting new recipes to inspire you in the kitchen. 

Immersing yourself in the online gluten free community is one of the best ways to comprehend just how much is out there in terms of recipes and options for your child. 

How to support your child with living a gluten free lifestyle

At home, you can control the food that your family consumes, and life can continue as normal with a few tweaks. The most important thing to consider is cross contamination, and understanding how to prevent this in the kitchen when preparing foods with and without gluten. 

However, there are other considerations that will likely affect your child’s life and it is important to be aware so that you can help your child adapt to a gluten-free life with ease. 

One of the best ways to help your child get used to the lifestyle adaptation is to give them as much control over the situation as possible. Here are some tips to help your child adapt:

The weekly shop
  1. One idea that many families have found effective is collaboratively coming up with ideas for meals on a Sunday before the weekly shop.
  2. In this way, everyone can contribute to what meal they’d like to have during the week. This is a great opportunity to plan how you can incorporate gluten-free food into your weekly shop.
Birthday parties
  1. When children go to birthday parties, it’s likely they’ll be exposed to foods with gluten that they won’t be able to consume, and this may be initially upsetting for them. 
  2. It’s important to sit down with your child ahead of time and discuss this openly and honestly. Make sure to acknowledge their feelings and make them feel validated.
  3. This could be an opportunity to allow your child some special gluten-free treats
  4. You may want to prepare the food yourself and supply it ahead of the party or find out whether the parents will do that.
School and eating out
  1. This is also important to bear in mind for your child’s school, and on any occasions where they meet with other children, including in play centres or sleepovers.
Gaining their independence
  1. It will be a great milestone when your child gets to the point where they can independently explain their condition to other caregivers (including teachers or babysitters). 
  2. To reach this point, give your child lots of resources to be able to explain this clearly. Consider making colourful posters or flashcards with simple points that will allow your child to grow up with the concepts that they will understand more fully in later life.

Helping your child learn about a gluten-free lifestyle is a lifelong gift

This guide is intended to support you, your child and your family with adapting to some new concepts and is aimed at giving you confidence over your choices. 

One thing that you should remember is that this will be a lifelong learning journey for you. The good habits and education that you instill in your child will be one of the most important gifts that you can give them.

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