Anxiety related to celiac disease (CeD) can come from many different directions.

Children may feel anxious when dining out, they may fear social isolation, or they may worry about being unintentionally exposed to gluten.

Food is involved in many social situations and daily living. From birthday parties to school snacks, a child with CeD may continuously be put in situations causing anxiety. As parents, there are things we can do to help our children.

Empower: We can empower our children to advocate for themselves. We can teach our children that it is okay and even important to ask questions before eating a new food. When a child is old enough, we can teach them to read labels and look for the words or label that says gluten free.

Model: We can model words when our children are around so that they learn how to handle situations. We can think out loud and narrate our thoughts. “This is a new food for us, I am going to double check the label to make sure it is gluten free. Do you want to help me look?”

Prepare: We can help our child be prepared for situations when gluten may be involved. We can pack special food, eat prior to an event, or research food options beforehand.

Positive self talk: It might also be helpful to teach your child positive self talk. “Having celiac disease can be hard and I can do hard things.” You can have your child repeat these words and then they can independently use them when needed.

Refocus: Try to shift the focus away from food and instead put an emphasis on being with friends and family and experiencing fun.

If you feel like anxiety related to CeD is impacting your child’s daily life activities, you may consider seeking help from a mental health professional.