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Being gluten-free may be all the rage with the celebrity set, but that's one area of celeb life teens do not want to emulate. Inappropriate tweets, limo rides and Louboutins? Yes. Having a weird dietary restriction that makes you stand out? Not so much.
Celiac disease hit me like a ton of bricks as an adult, so happily I did not have to deal with a gluten-free adolescence. Quite frankly, I had enough to deal with, given that time I went in for a perm and it didn't go away for 5 years. Being a teenager and dealing with a weird autoimmune disease that prevents you from eating pizza is no one's idea of a good time. Being a parent of a teen who will be tempted by said pizza, and worrying that your child is destroying her immune system, her villi and her health is really, really, really, no one's idea of a good time.
While I may go about embarrassing myself in restaurants and all over the Internet, I'm not a self-conscious teen trying to fit in. Sure I dodged that hormone-crazed bullet, but sadly, my own daughter will have to navigate the minefield of junior high and high school with her own celiac disease. How lucky is she that she has a mom who writes about this stuff and has it all figured out? She has no idea how lucky, and will most likely consider my book (Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes, and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free) to be a massive embarrassment, instead of incredibly helpful. That's OK—she needed some therapy material anyway.
Allow me to enlighten teens everywhere (and their stressed out parents) as to the best ways to deal with your potentially socially alienating gluten-free situation. It's easy! Try this.
1. Appeal to Her Vanity
Remind your young gluten-intolerant of all the weird skin issues that can happen when she consumes gluten, and don't gloss over the farting either. This is especially helpful on prom night when you're trying to keep beer out of her sensitive stomach. Do NOT use this on a 12-year-old boy, however, as it will send him to the vending machine as fast as you can say "explosive diarrhea."
2. Cultivate a Persona
Remember when that first kid got braces in junior high? Before the sheen wore off the metal, everyone in homeroom wanted braces, too. Teach your child to say things like,* "Yeah, I'll probably die young" and "I won't let this disease define me" to pick
up chicks/dudes. Note: Lines must be delivered with the proper emo face.
on everyone around the table will involuntarily produce the sympathy frown when
your child passes up the pizza and chews forlornly on a carrot stick. And that,
my friends, is how you become popular. (Ed. note: Yeah, in the Drama Club, maybe.)
3. Become an Activist
Sure, preaching the gluten-free gospel can put some people off, but if your child happens to be one of those peppy cheerleader types who is all up in the awareness, she's more likely to stick to the diet. Whether she starts a blog, attends Celiac Disease Foundation conferences, or starts petitions for gluten-free school lunches, it will help her feel some control over her lot as well as encourage her to stay the straight and narrow course. You know, kind of like those Up With People kids. They turned out OK, right?
That, my friends is how you keep your kids healthy and safe when the gluten attacks. What about the college years, you ask? Send money and gluten-free snacks, and pray every single night that your college student does not forget every bit of her home training the minute she moves into the dorms. Your work here is done. Now go enjoy that panini.
*Please rest assured this is NOT true and is
simply a romantic device for your child. Yes, I realize that sounds bad too.