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With the promise of new friends, new vistas, and exciting possibilities to come, back-to-school time is one of excitement and anticipation. For children with celiac or serious food allergies (and their parents), it can also be a time of anxiety. But with some thoughtful planning and just a little extra effort, you can rest easy that your child will have a safe and productive year!

Here, a few tips to get you started before the school bus drives away:

· Alert teachers, group leaders, and counselors to your student's dietary protocol. Be sure to update medical forms for your child if the diagnosis is recent.

· Schedule a meeting with those who work most closely with your child. This may include teacher's assistants, coaches, or other school staff members. If your child is in a classroom and/or activity wherein snacks are scheduled, work with those in charge to create a solution that accommodates your child with the least amount of attention (i.e., gluten-free snacks for all on some days; a special stash provided by you, etc.). Plan a schedule for restocking, and mark your calendar avoid any snackless days.

· Address the use of materials in class that may contain gluten, such as Play-Doh or ingredients for cooking activities. Plan to keep in touch with the teacher so that alternative solutions may be mapped out in advance.

· If your child eats the school lunch, meet with the food providers to check on safe options for children with food allergies. Most lunch services will offer a salad or other gluten-free-friendly option; however, the risk for cross-contamination may be present. My recommendation is to do your homework and always go the safest route. For us, that meant a daily packed lunch. Always pack ample snacks and meals for field trips, too.

· Let your child help plan her own snack and lunch menus. Taking part in food-planning builds confidence and adds a little fun to the challenge!

· If your child takes part in sports or after-school activities, be sure have him keep extra protein bars and/or other non-perishable snacks in his backpack to go with those fresh fruits and veggies. A gluten intolerance won't slow down a well-fed teammate!

· DON’T panic or feel you need to monitor your child during the school day (a.k.a. parental stalking—believe me, I know the temptation!). This will only add anxiety to your child and others. You will need to trust that he or she will be supported by the adults in charge, learning curve and all.


Finally, though we may wish we could hold our children's hands forever, the truth is, we have to let go a little -- to trust that our kids are learning to trust themselves, too. And, with that knowledge, we can smile just a little more each year, knowing that as the bus rolls away into this sunrise, we're one step closer to empowering our gluten-free children to drive their own destiny, one healthy day at a time.



For more on helping your gluten-free child navigate the school year—including tips on school lunch menu planning, birthday parties/social events, school field trips, community groups and events, and much more, check out The Gluten-Free Parents’ Survival Guide, now available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

All of the fun and learning, with none of the gluten.


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Updated: Aug 14, 2019

With our daughter's graduation only a few weeks away, I seem to be in a constant state of nostalgia. All those once-mundane moments have suddenly become precious commodities, punctuated by the tick-tick-ticking of the clock. You know, the usual domestic moments we spend with our children as they're growing up: chatting in the kitchen over tea, making cookies together, strolling the neighborhood, running for school project supplies--under the shadow of this momentous ending, each is as that last drop of honey or that last ray of sunlight at dusk. And for us, the experience of raising Edyth lies framed in the context of gluten-free parenting. How much we've learning through the years; how easy it all seems now in the context of retrospect. At the time, the mountain seemed immense; yet ultimately it turned out to be more of a hill, one worth every moment of the climb.


Remember this as you raise your gluten-free child: You are your child's future guide above all. Every moment, you are modeling an attitude towards her disease that she will carry for the rest of her life (barring a cure). You are showing her how to create a happy and healthy home, how to expand that sense of freedom in a gluten-filled world...how to overcome peer pressure, inconvenience, and even the occasional self-pity and to replace these with perseverance, creativity, and confidence. Your way of handling travel plans will likely be his, as will your reaction to that accidental "glutening" or the lack of communication when ordering at a restaurant.


These moments are fleeting; we must each remember the hill we've climbed and the one set before us. Eventually, the trail we are sharing with our child will split into two...so conduct each day accordingly. Even in this mixed state of excitement (for her) and grief (for my own letting go), I am comforted to know that Edyth is ready for her next journey as a gluten-free young adult. And, when that stone presents itself on her path as a potential hazard, I am certain she will know how to skirt around it and walk confidently forward towards her own North Star.


Edyth the hiking girl, here last fall after 8 years strong on a gluten-free diet.

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