Having celiac disease can often cause children to feel self-conscious or embarrassed. As children grow and their social skills develop, they may become more aware and concerned about the opinions of their peers.
1. Empower your child with knowledge. Help her to gain the best possible understanding of celiac by presenting information in an age-appropriate way, providing opportunities for her to ask questions, and encouraging an open dialogue.
2. Support healthy self-esteem. Your child may not be able to eat all of the same foods as his peers, but celiac disease does not make him any less capable and does not need to get in the way of a normal, healthy, happy childhood.
3. Meet other kids and families with celiac disease. Make new friends and share tips and ideas.
4. Talk to teachers, coaches, parents of your child’s friends, and other trusted adults. It can be very useful to have a well-informed authority figure to support your child when you can’t be there. Plus, they can help to ensure that activities they facilitate are inclusive for all children participating.
5. Help your child to educate others in a fun way. Have a party and teach your child’s friends how to make some favorite gluten-free treats. Encourage your child to use opportunities like “show and tell” to teach classmates (and teachers!) about celiac.
Janis Atty Meadow, MA, CCLS, ATR-BC, LCAT is a child life specialist and creative arts therapist at NYU Langone’s Fink Children’s Ambulatory Care Center, and is part of the Pediatric Celiac Disease and Gluten Related Disorders Program. She helps pediatric patients and their families understand and cope with medical illnesses and experiences. By providing education, preparation, emotional support, and guidance, she promotes positive development and well-being in patients facing a wide range of challenging life events.