Many parents who have children with celiac disease, have a difficult time adjusting to the gluten-free lifestyle. Gluten-containing foods are common in our diet and the parents may feel overwhelmed with this change. This article will act as a guide for parents in this situation providing some tips that can be used to ensure a proper diet for their child. With lack of awareness and difficulty in obtaining gluten-free food locally, parents must be educated on how to deal with these problems.
Parents of newly diagnosed children should get themselves educated on the gluten-free diet through resources including doctors, dietitians and websites. Understanding the boundaries and limits of a gluten-free life can help parents manage their child’s life more effectively. The knowledge acquired will help them explain this to others individuals who are around the child. For school going children with celiac disease, parents remain the primary source of information and support.
As parents, the goal is to raise the child with celiac disease with an understanding and knowledge of living a healthy, gluten-free life. Involve your child in his/her condition, no matter how young the child. Read labels loudly to them, explaining the terms. Encourage them to make food choices among the best available (do not force an item on them). Help the child in menu selection when dining out and try to avoid repeating menus (despite limited availability of gluten-free foods). Do not take child to a restaurant where you know gluten-free foods will not be available. Teach your child to say no to contaminated and forbidden foods offered by friends or family. Never have your child feel let down and alone due to the dietary restrictions. Make arrangements in advance for special occasions like parties.
Pakistani Celiac Society can be an important resource for increasing awareness and educating people on celiac disease and gluten-free diet. Parents of children diagnosed with celiac disease can play an important role in this regard. Providing the child’s teachers with as much information about the condition and diet that they understand is essential. Similarly, our school teachers can also play a important role in helping the child cope with the dietary restrictions. A list of allowed and not-allowed ingredients should be provided to the teachers. Make sure they understand the child’s symptoms, so that if he/she accidently takes gluten, the error is recognized. Brochure on celiac disease in Urdu and English can be printed from the Pakistani Celiac Society’s web site and given to the teacher.
Children with celiac disease should have an adequate breakfast before going to school each day. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Milk and other dairy products should be part of the diet as this supplies the body with calcium. Fruits should be included in breakfast and our country has a variety of local seasonal fruits available. It may be possible to let your child buy lunch at school, but it requires planning and coordination between you and the lunch provider. As much as possible, it is advised to send home-made lunch as this would reduce the risk or eating contaminated food items. The child’s taste, preference and likings should always be taken into consideration.
Parents tend to stop the social activities of children as soon as they get diagnosed. This is not recommended as it diminishes the child’s self confidence he/she feels dejected. Parents should encourage socializing as much as possible with proper precautions to avoid any gluten ingestion. Birthday parties at school should be managed with the help of education provided to teachers and other children. For such an event, the parents should prepare gluten-free food like cakes in advance and send it to the birthday party at school. The teacher should provide support to the child on such occasions so that he/she does not feel lonely when others are celebrating and eating cakes made from regular wheat flour. Parents of the child’s friends should also be educated about the gluten-free diet. This will also help spread awareness.
Children with celiac disease will remain well and healthy as long as they stay on a strict, gluten-free dist. Many parents stop medical follow-up once the child is diagnosed. However, it is advisable for the patient to have periodic check-ups with the doctor and with a dietitian. Children’s height and weight should be monitored regularly to ensure adequate growth. Any concerns should be discussed with the doctor.