Many parents face the common concern of convincing their teenager to take their celiac disease (CeD) seriously. Celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten, requires strict adherence to a gluten-free (GF) diet for optimal management. However, convincing teenagers to prioritize their health can be difficult.

To address this, it’s crucial to begin by acknowledging and validating your teenager’s emotions regarding their diagnosis. Recognizing any fear, frustration, sadness, or uncertainty they may be experiencing is essential. By offering unwavering support and understanding, you can lay the foundation for effective management of CeD.

Building a Strong Doctor-Patient Relationship

Finding a doctor your teen connects with is vital for managing CeD effectively. A supportive doctor who fosters open communication provides not only medical guidance but also emotional support and practical advice.

Understanding Consequences of Dietary Choices

Educating teenagers about the potential consequences of not adhering to a strict GF diet is essential. Exploring the topics relevant to teenagers such as sports performance along with skin and nail health can be helpful. Untreated CeD can lead to various complications, impacting their health, well-being, and ability to engage in activities they enjoy. If your child is an athlete, it’s crucial to ensure they understand that untreated CeD can decrease performance. (1)

Empowering Through Involvement in Meal Planning

Encourage your teenager to be involved in meal planning and grocery shopping. This empowers them to make healthier choices and take ownership of their dietary needs. Start teaching your teen how to make their favorite meals. This will aid in a smoother transition to independent living in the future.

Normalizing GF Eating

Teenagers typically want to avoid standing out, and dealing with dietary restrictions can make this even more challenging. Normalize GF eating to support your teenager in feeling confident and knowledgeable about their condition. Highlighting similarities in food choices and promoting confidence in their individuality beyond their dietary restrictions can help them navigate these complexities more comfortably.

Creating a Supportive Home Environment

Establishing a supportive environment at home is crucial for your teenager’s success in managing CeD. Encourage open communication, and provide access to reputable resources such as books, websites, or support groups specifically tailored to their age group, where they can learn more about CeD and connect with peers facing similar challenges.

By fostering a supportive and understanding environment, you can empower your teenager to prioritize their health, take control of their dietary choices, and effectively manage their celiac disease, ultimately enabling them to lead a fulfilling and healthy life.

References

  1. Mancini, Lee A., MD, Trojian, Thomas, MD, & Mancini, Angela C., MD. “Celiac Disease and the Athlete.” American College of Sports Medicine. March/April 2011, pp. 105-108.

Published May 1, 2024