Friendships are so important to each of us but to a teenager, friendships are about survival! Now that my daughter is totally immersed in the high school lifestyle she has new friends, is writing final exams, and pushing herself athletically.
Overall, things are going really well for her. But as we all know, as soon as things seem to be going well, something comes along and brings us back down to reality. For my daughter, that something is hanging out with her friends for longer than a few hours at a time. You know those things – sleepovers, movie nights, going to the mall, grabbing a bite to eat. These things that should be easy, and at times spontaneous, are now things that require planning.
On the surface, planning seems like no big deal, I mean as a parent life is usually one big planning event that never seems to end. But for a teenager who is trying to fit in and not stand out for the “wrong reason”, having to plan out their food intake ALL the time is definitely a “wrong reason”.
So as a parent how can you help your child deal with this safely in the least embarrassing way possible? Safety is easy to achieve on its own but unfortunately, if your child doesn’t feel empowered to deal with the disease, safety equals embarrassing.
The most helpful thing you can do is boost their confidence. Over the years I have tried to do this for my children in a variety of areas by encouraging them to push themselves just slightly beyond their limits athletically, academically, and emotionally with the goal of learning along the way and not focusing on the end result. So far this has paid off especially for my daughter with celiac.
Her confidence in, and understanding of, the need to eat healthy to achieve peak performance has become a foundation for her. Rather than tell her friends she is eating a certain way because of a disease, she tells them she eats a healthy diet with tons of vegetables, fruits and lean protein so she can eventually achieve her Olympic dreams. She knows she will have a tough time doing that if she doesn’t fuel her body properly. For her, telling people its all about proper nutrition sounds much less embarrassing then having to divulge she has a disease.
That said, she still struggles with having to “interrogate” (as she calls it!) friends and their parents who offer her food…
- do you have the ingredient list?
- do you double-dip in your condiments?
- did you cut that up on the same cutting board, with the same knife, as your gluten-filled sandwich?
- can I get my food first so I can get it before it possibly gets cross contaminated?
Let me tell you, even I would feel awkward having to ask those questions and I don’t embarrass that easily anymore! Thankfully, she has a great group of friends who look out for each other, and really, isn’t that what friends are for?