Talking to My Child About Going Gluten Free
Welcome to the March 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Tough Conversations
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have spoken up about how they discuss complex topics with their children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Our family has been dairy free for awhile, because both of my children have a sensitivity to cow milk. We had been a “dairy light” family for years with Kieran, but we’d become much more lax during my pregnancy with Ailia – I felt like my body was craving it. After Ailia showed much more intense reactions to dairy (and, later, eggs), we cut it out completely for everyone. Kieran had a pretty tough time losing ice cream and yogurt, but it wasn’t a huge deal since we’d been avoiding dairy for years. (Also, we bought a Blendtec, and we’ve had lots of fun experimenting with dairy alternatives to make our own ice cream.)
Fast forward a year, and both of my kids are still having issues that appear to be related to food; specifically, gluten. After hemming and hawing about it for a few months, I’m finally ready to try eliminating it to see if it makes a difference for them.
But how to break it to my wheat-loving son? I knew it would be tough. This is a kid who is food-motivated, especially if that food involves pretzels, granola bars, cookies, crackers, or any other wheat-based treat. As much as I offer healthy fruit and vegetable snacks throughout the day, he’ll always come back and ask me for something with gluten. It’s been a struggle, and I knew I’d have to come up with a plan to get him on board with going gluten free.
This is what we did.
We talked about how some food makes our bodies feel bad.
Kieran knows that dairy makes him sick. There have been several occasions over the past year when he has had the option of consuming dairy, and he chooses not to, knowing that he will pay for it later. When we first sat down to talk about going gluten free, I led with a conversation about how dairy affects his body. He agreed that dairy hurts his stomach, and he also recognizes that there is still something making him feel bad, we just haven’t figured out what that is.
I explained that many people have an allergy to gluten, and we talked about several of his friends who do not eat gluten. We chatted about the symptoms he is having, and I explained how they might be related to eating foods that contain gluten.
As I feared, Kieran was deeply upset. He cried and refused to talk anymore. He shouted that he would not give up gluten. He listed several foods that he loves and cried some more about not being able to eat them.
We made compromises.
I knew that part of the reason Kieran was upset was because he was feeling powerless. He felt helpless that he could not keep foods that were important to him. To help give him back some of the control, I first acknowledged that he was sad and angry, and then I asked him how we could make the transition easier.
To be honest, it is important to me to have a smooth transition, too. One of my struggles in going gluten free is feeling wasteful – if you walk into my kitchen right now, you will see a lot of food with gluten in it. I did not want to simply throw everything away.
So how could we make the transition more manageable for Kieran, while helping me feel less wasteful? We agreed that we would not go cold turkey. We’re going to continue using the gluten products we have in the house, and we will replace them with gluten free products as they are consumed. I did the same thing with dairy, and then I ended up giving all of my dairy foods away within a couple of weeks. Once I realized that my fear of eliminating dairy was much more emotional than fiscal, I was able to surrender my fear and let go of dairy. I suspect that giving myself this cushion with gluten will be just the momentum I needed to get over this particular emotional hump.
Because Kieran is five years old and does better with concrete numbers, we agreed that we could eat gluten at one meal and one snack. So, for example, he might have some cereal for breakfast and then a cookie after dinner (both items on my “to be consumed” list). He’s been much more willing to make the switch since he knows that he can have control over his food choices – it’s emotional for him, too.
We are getting easy gluten replacements.
My goal, of course, is to eventually feel just as confident baking and cooking gluten free as I do now with wheat flour. But I’m aware that there is a learning curve. So until then, I’ve given myself permission to use some gluten free crutches.
For example, I’m buying some Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix on the recommendation of a friend. Someday, I hope I don’t need to buy a pre-made mix, but I’m allowing myself the time to transition.
I also bought some gluten free pretzels (one of Kieran’s favorite snacks), and pizza crust mix (I couldn’t bring myself to buy the pricey premade crusts).
We are making the transition fun and interesting.
We’re treating the transition to a gluten free lifestyle as an adventure, not as a hardship. For example, this week we made some vegan/gluten free breakfast cookies. Kieran was thrilled to eat cookies at breakfast, and we had fun making them together and talking about the lack of flour.
We splurged on some fantastic almond milk yogurt to have on hand for snacks. It isn’t something I usually have available, but I’m willing to make our gluten free snack time transitions more attractive until the change feels less overwhelming.
We’re going to experiment with flours and textures and baking and food. I mean, really, how can anyone be unhappy about forgoing gluten when they’re getting quinoa chocolate cake, Gluten-Free, Cinnamon Salted Caramel Brownies (using almond flour), and Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Nutella Waffles. (For more GF recipes, see my “Going Gluten Free” board on Pinterest!)
We are in this together.
Part of a smooth transition for me is having support from Tom: both emotional support (a shoulder to cry on) and practical support (giving up gluten foods when he’s at home). I know that trying to fix two meals – one with gluten for Tom, and one without gluten for the rest of us – would be neither feasible (due to time and energy constraints) nor fair.
Tom very rarely eats food with dairy in it in front of us, because Ailia and Kieran would want it. On the rare occasions he does eat dairy, we have a dairy-free alternative for us (i.e., when we eat pizza). But when we first stopped eating dairy, we simply did not have our favorite dairy foods available, mainly because it takes some time to get used to dairy-free alternatives.
Whether to give up gluten with us wasn’t even a question for Tom. He knows that Kieran will feel better if we’re making the change as a family. He also knows that my willpower will crumble if he brings bread products into the house. At least for awhile.
Have you ever had to cut food out of your child’s diet? How did you approach it?
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon March 12 with all the carnival links.)
- A Difficult Conversation — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is keeping her mouth shut about a difficult topic.
- Discussing Sexuality and Objectification With Your Child — At Authentic Parenting, Laura is puzzled at how to discuss sexuality and objectification with her 4-year-old.
- Tough Conversations — Kadiera at Our Little Acorn knows there are difficult topics to work through with her children in the future, but right now, every conversation is a challenge with a nonverbal child.
- Real Talk — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama explains why there are no conversation topics that are off limits with her daughter, and how she ensures that tough conversations are approached in a developmentally appropriate manner.
- From blow jobs to boob jobs and lots of sex inbetween — Mrs Green talks candidly about boob jobs and blow jobs…
- When Together Doesn’t Work — Ashley at Domestic Chaos discusses the various conversations her family has had in the early stages of separation.
- Talking To Children About Death — Luschka at Diary of a First Child is currently dealing with the terminal illness of her mother. In this post she shares how she’s explained it to her toddler, and some of the things she’s learned along the way.
- Teaching 9-1-1 To Kids — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling talks about the importance of using practical, age-appropriate emergency scenarios as a springboard for 9-1-1 conversations.
- Preschool Peer Pressure — Lactating Girl struggles to explain to her preschooler why friends sometimes aren’t so friendly.
- Frank Talk — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis unpacks a few conversations about sexuality that she’s had with her 2-year-old daughter, and her motivation for having so many frank discussions.
- When simple becomes tough — A natural mum manages oppositional defiance in a toddler at Ursula Ciller’s Blog.
- How Babies are Born: a conversation with my daughter — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger tries to expand her daughter’s horizons while treading lightly through the waters of pre-K social order.
- Difficult Questions & Lies: 4 Reasons to Tell The Truth — Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection shares the potential impact that telling lies instead of taking the time to answer difficult questions can have on the parent-child relationship.
- Parenting Challenges–when someone dies — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about talking to her child about death and the cultural challenges involved in living in a predominantly Catholic nation.
- Daddy Died — Breaking the news to your children that their father passed away is tough. Erica at ChildOrganics shares her story.
- Openness — sustainablemum prepares herself for the day when she has to tell her children that a close relative has died.
- Embracing Individuality — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy addressed a difficult question in public with directness and honesty.
- Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, Jessica Claire of Crunchy-Chewy Mama also values discussing them with her children to soften the blow they might cause when they hit closer to home.
- Talking to My Child About Going Gluten Free — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama concluded that her family would benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet, she came up with a plan to persuade her gluten-loving son to find peace with the change. This is how they turned the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle into an adventure rather than a hardship.
- How Does Your Family Explain Differences and Approach Diversity? — How do you and your family approach diversity? Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her thoughts at Natural Parents Network and would like to hear from readers.
- Discussing Difficult Topics with Kids: What’s Worked for Me — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares parenting practices that enabled discussions of difficult topics with her (now-adult) children to be positive experiences.
- Tough Conversations — Get some pointers from Jorje of Momma Jorje on important factors to keep in mind when broaching tough topics with kids.
- Protect your kids from sneaky people — Lauren at Hobo Mama has cautioned her son against trusting people who’d want to hurt him — and hopes the lessons have sunk in.
- Mommy, What Does the Bible Say? — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work works through how to answer a question from her 4-year-old that doesn’t have a simple answer.
- When All You Want for Them is Love: Adoption, Abandonment, and Honoring the Truth — Melissa at White Noise talks about balancing truth and love when telling her son his adoption story.
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"Talking to My Child About Going Gluten Free"
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