(From The Gluten-Free Parent’s Survival Guide by E. Joy [2020, Amazon.com])
Neither we—nor our children—should live in fear of the great wide world. Aside from its obvious downsides, being gluten-free is also a sort of adventure, an opportunity for personal mastery over one's health (which can translate to other areas of life, too!). One of the most important tasks we face in raising gluten-free kids is that of helping them to help themselves, and ultimately to become the drivers of their own health and destiny.
That said, when you're starting out on this GF venture, you may need to intervene to show them the ropes. You will have to decide how much or how little your child should take over these, or any, steps towards gaining social confidence. Trust your instincts, and teach your child to trust theirs.
In the meantime, let the following helpful (and proven) tips guide you through the seasons of celebration ahead:
If possible, check in with the hosting parent/guardian before an event. Let them know that your child is gluten-free, and ask about food-related plans. That way, you will have the option of preparing items to coordinate with the existing menu. (For instance, if they are serving chocolate birthday cupcakes, you may be able to make or purchase a GF version to bring to the party.)
In our experience, kind hosts may offer to make or serve gluten-free food items. In these cases, it’s perfectly acceptable to mention cross-contamination, and/or to simply decline and say that you’re happy to provide your own snack or meal. If offered a questionable item, guide your child to always be gracious and appreciative; however, if she has celiac disease, she should not partake. SO…
From a safety standpoint, always bring your own something—be it a snack, a dish to share, a dessert—whatever will help make the event a bit more carefree.
Another rule for the celiac child to live by: Avoid going to any event hungry! By eating a little something beforehand, your child will be better able to enjoy the company and the experience--with or without the food. Remember, no social gathering is worth days of illness!
One of our all-time favorite tips for your GF child to take into the future: Take note (either literally or mentally) of any intriguing food items at an event. Keep these ideas in a notebook, and commit to making something similar, but gluten-free! (We did this right after a party during which my daughter was longing for a cake pop. Our next-day version, more like a frosted cake-square on a stick, made a fun activity--and they were yummy, too!) Edyth was thrilled--and every since then, she keeps a list of "Things to make GF" on a little notepad in her purse.
Finally—and perhaps most importantly, remember the mantra, and say it again and again: We go to events for the people and the experiences above all!
And in this sense, being gluten-free is the blessing that reveals the most important gifts in our lives.
For a list of GF candies considered safe for Halloween, or to order The Gluten-Free Parent's Survival Guide, click below:
Elyn Joy is an author living in Denver, Colorado USA. Her health-related books, The Gluten-Free Parent's Survival Guide and The Gluten-Free Teen's Survival Guide, have helped guide children and parents everywhere transition to flourishing gluten-free lifestyles. Elyn has been a featured speaker for Children's Hospital of Colorado; her writings have appeared in several magazines, including Gluten-Free Living, Simply Gluten-Free, Whole Foods Magazine, and Allergic Living, among others.