What You Need to Know to Stand up For Yourself
By Leia Parker, 2018 Bastyr University Dietetic Intern
There is nothing wrong with being different. However, when you’re a kid all you want to do is fit in and not stand out, and this can be tough to accomplish with food intolerances. Sometimes other kids might focus on these differences and might cause you to feel singled out. But there are positive ways you can live your life as a kid, and also stay true to supporting your need to be gluten-free. From finding true friends who support your lifestyle, to knowing how to respond to negativity, here are some tips and exercises that you can practice that will ease your anxiety and reduce stress so you can enjoy every day.
Tips on how to handle bullying
Find friends and teachers that you trust at school
Having a trusted support system at school, where bullying might occur, is important. These are the people you feel comfortable knowing will help if you need an adult to step in.
Find a teacher who you can go report to when bullying happens. This teacher should be someone that you trust will stand up for you and do what is needed to stop this issue.
Have friends nearby you that will help stand up to the negativity. These are friends that understand the importance of your gluten-free diet, will be additional support, and give you the positive energy you need.
Chat with your parents
Sometimes it may seem easier to deal with a problem on your own, since you are growing up and want to be able to handle things yourself. But sometimes the people that know you the best and have the best solutions to your problems are your own parents.
Be open and honest with your parents. They want to help you out and the best way they can help is if they know what is going on. You are never too old to talk with your parents; they are part of your support system and will do whatever they can to make sure you are living your happiest life.
We all need support
Even with friends and family that are supportive of your need to be gluten-free, it’s helpful, and fun to connect with kids in similar situations as you.
GIG’s Generation GF program has groups around the country. Not only do they provide support but they also include fun activities. Check out our website to see if there is a group near you. Can’t find a group close by? Talk with your parents about starting your own! Go to: www.gluten.org/joinus/start-a-gig-branch/ to find out more information on how to get started.
Gluten-Free Food Hacks
While we want to embrace our differences, there are times when we do want to feel a part of the group. Luckily, there are products out in the market that make this easier for those of us who are gluten-free. Here are some of our tips and hacks to help:
Plan ahead. Talk with your friends or have your parent talk with the adults about what foods are being served at the birthday party or sleepover you are attending. Find snacks or make treats that are similar to the party foods. Some ideas include flavored tortilla chips, popcorn, frozen gluten-free pizza, and gluten-free cookies.
School lunches. Lunch doesn’t have to be stressful – there are plenty of gluten-free breads on the market that look just like other bread and can be made into your favorite sandwich. There are also great gluten-free crackers and potato chips that you can pack, along with your fruit and/or vegetable of choice.
Naturally gluten-free treats. Let’s not forget that there are snacks and treats out there that are already naturally gluten-free and something everybody loves. Foods like corn tortilla chips, popcorn, nuts & seeds, rice treats, and chocolate. Just make sure that you are picking the gluten-free varieties of your favorite snacks.
Prevent cross-contamination. Don’t forget to talk to your friends about trying your gluten-free snacks. Let them know that it is okay to share but to make sure not to touch a non gluten-free snack before diving into yours.
Share your story
Parents and kids should work together to figure out what you both can comfortably say to classmates, families, coaches, teachers, and other parents about your need to be gluten-free. This is something that not only will make you feel confident if faced with bullying but also provides a small educational piece on what being gluten-free really means. Here are some examples to get the creative juices flowing:
“Celiac disease is a condition that makes it difficult for me to digest foods with gluten; having any amount of gluten will make me really sick. If you have any questions about this, ask me and I can help you to understand more about why these foods are bad for me.”
“Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that can have negative impacts on my gut when gluten is eaten. It can make me really sick and cause my body to not be able to absorb nutrients that are important for my health.”
“I am sensitive to gluten, which means that I can’t eat foods that contain it. I can’t eat foods with wheat, like typical bread and pasta. If I eat even crumbs of these foods with gluten, I will feel very sick.”
Create a statement that is personal to you and your family, that tells your story and why these foods will impact you negatively, and overall allows the conversation to be open from both ends to answer and ask questions.
Growing up can be hard when all we want to do is fit in and be “normal.” But what you are going to learn is that being gluten-free doesn’t make you weird or abnormal – it can make you stronger and more unique. You will soon realize that these traits are something that can make you into a more admirable person, so embrace your unique qualities and don’t let anyone ever tell you any differently. These tips and exercises will help you to navigate growing up gluten-free and, even better, to thrive and succeed.
Dr. Deena Abbe, Psychologist, Long Island Family Therapy – LIFT, and leader of Generation GF Long Island, places emphasis on finding the people that will support your needs and lifestyle. These positive relationships are crucial while growing up and also serve as a platform to building healthy relationships as an adult.
Keep the friends that are positive and supportive close to you. These are the people that are true friends and won’t let a small difference influence your relationship.
These healthy relationships are important to have as they provide companionship, support, and a sense of belonging. These are important qualities to have when coping and healing from potential bullying behavior.
Kids are driven by a sense of wanting to “fit in.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, in fact it is natural, but it is also important to know that there is nothing wrong with being different. Believe it or not, we are all different and that is what makes each of us unique.