When the teen years hit, it gets a little more tricky for a child to navigate the world on a special diet. Something what is routine suddenly is on display for friends at camp, retreats, and sleepovers. Here are some tips for helping your teen with a GF diet.
1) Make sure they know how to read labels. It's important that your teen is up on what they can and cannot have. My daughter is really good at this and knows things like, if it says maltodextrin, it's OK but malt or barley malt...no way.
2) Teach them to speak up. The biggest peeve I have with Celiac adults is their fear of hurting some one's feelings taking precedence over their health. Teach your teen to speak up. It's not OK to suffer so some one's feelings don't get hurt.
3) Always send enough food with your teen to prepare for the worst. We have one of those funky cooler bags that looks like a purse. It's great for my 13 year old daughter to discreetly transport food when she goes on a retreat. She usually has something at the camp she can eat, and often when I call ahead they will make her food, but it's best to be safe. "You don't know until you get there", is my motto. I'd rather have my daughter prepared. I send muffins in individual containers so they don't get smashed. I also send oranges, fruit snacks, pretzels and chips, cheese sticks, yogurt, bagels and Nutella. They may not eat 3 square meals, but they will survive!
4) Don't encourage "poor me" or special treatment. It's important that your teen takes responsibility for their diet and not expect others to cater.
5) Communicate with youth leaders and parents of their friends. Often they are more then willing to help, they just don't know how. Occasionally you will run across someone who just doesn't get it. That's OK. My daughter has a friend who's parents don't get it. I never expect someone to cook meals or provide everything for my daughter's stay...however having some fruit or corn chips (common GF foods) would be nice. This friend has nothing. Emily lives off rice bowls, fruit leather and muffins. It is only for one overnight stay, and it's worth it to her to be with a friend. On the other hand, she has a friend with a mom who goes crazy. She has everything for her in GF and packaged to boot so she's not contaminated. Write thank you notes and give little gifts to these gems. I certainly don't expect it!
6)Trust you teen. They are almost adults and they need to learn how to live with their diet. A little trust goes along way.
Having a special diet in the teen years is difficult, but not impossible. Keep communication lines open and help your teen to adjust.