Is your celiac child safe with Grandma? Your little one has just been diagnosed with celiac disease, you’re learning and getting a grasp on what all of that entails. Now comes the hard part, talking to grandma and grandpa about what your child can and cannot have. I certainly don’t mean your mother or mother-in-law would intentionally harm your child, but for some families, it’s really hard for them to understand that the cookies that they have been baking for generations is now something their beloved grandchild can no longer share with them.
Some grandparents out there take an active role in helping their celiac grandchildren live a happy, healthy gluten-free life. But for some grandparents they just can’t understand how serious this autoimmune disease known as Celiac is. Or how that one little crumb will send little Johnny into severe stomach cramps and diarrhea or a whole plethora of other symptoms that could last for days. Like I said before, I don’t think that they want to intentionally hurt their grandchild, they just may not understand. This may be the first time they’ve ever even heard of celiac. So how do you ensure that your child can go to grandma’s house and be safe? Here are some tips to help you navigate through the sometimes troubled seas of celiac disease uncertainties.
Educate Your Parents
Sit down with your parents and in-laws, or anyone else that may be in a position of feeding or caring for your child, and educate them on the seriousness of this disease. Show them statistics and information on the symptoms that can occur from eating just a crumb of gluten. Things like diarrhea, stomach cramps, anemia, anxiety, failure to thrive, headaches, frequent colds or infections, even lethargy and chronic fatigue. Make a list of foods that are safe, foods that definitely have gluten, and those foods that MAY have gluten hiding in them. If your parents know their way around a computer, give them links to articles, gluten-free blogs, like mine, and videos.
Educate Your Child
It’s never too early to help your child understand and learn about celiac disease. Here’s an article that I wrote in March about helping your child transition to a gluten-free lifestyle that give some tips on educating your child. Let your child know that it is perfectly okay to say “no thank you” to grandma or grandpa if the food that they are offering them will make them sick. If they are going to grandma’s house, send them with snacks and foods that they can eat. Help your child learn about their celiac and they can help their grandparents learn.
Create a Safe Cooking Environment
One of my very favorite things to do with my grandchildren is to cook and bake with them. If this sounds like your parents, help them learn how to set up and create a safe gluten-free space in their kitchen. For years, my kitchen was not a dedicated, gluten-free kitchen. BUT, I did have a dedicated gluten-free area where glutenous products were never allowed to be. So help your parents do the same. Provide them with dedicated gluten-free utensils and cooking/baking tools. Share with them some of your favorite gluten-free recipes, books and magazines. Give them some gluten-free bake mixes to get them started. Does grandma have a special glutenous recipe? Help her revamp her recipe to make it gluten-free. It’s easier than ever now that there are gluten-free cup for cup flours on the market. Make it a family event and have the kids join in.
If all else fails, and you don’t think grandma “gets it”, to the degree of not slipping gluten into food, then take away alone time. Unfortunately there are some people out there that just won’t believe that gluten can and will make your child sick. If that’s the case with your family, then don’t let your child be at grandma’s without you, until she understands the importance of a gluten-free diet.
It’s all about being an advocate for your child and keeping them safe. When it comes to extended family members, be consistent, be kind and educate! Let them be grandparents. Work with them, after all, they love your child too, and most will not want to see your child in pain.