You got hit with a triple whammy: not only was your child sick, but one of your other children and you were diagnosed. One expected diagnosis is tough, but three can really send you for a loop. It’s hard to change your mindset, especially when it comes to something as serious as your and your children’s health. Add food, something that we turn to for comfort and nourishment, and then the cost of being gluten-free, it’s understandable why you feel lost.
First, know that it’s ok to feel whatever it is you are feeling: maybe anger that this is happening, confused because you didn’t think you were that sick, overwhelmed because you weren’t prepared, sad because you’ll miss glutinous pizza (especially if you live in New York). It’s ok. Your feelings are your own and you allowed to feel that way. But know that it doesn’t end there. As a parent, our job is to teach our children, and ourselves in the meantime, how to weather these emotional storms and come out whole on the other side.
Cognitive reframing is a technique we use to help recognize our negative thoughts and then combat them. Sot the first step is to stop, even after the fact, and say “Hey, that thought right there, that’s a negative thought.” Recognizing it and labeling it as a negative thought will go a long way. You don’t actually have to talk back to it, you just have to know it’s there. Like a tired child, if you engage with it, the thought, or the child, will keep coming back for more. But an acknowledgment or hug will go a long way to letting the child know that they are loved, you acknowledge how they feel, but you aren’t going to change their bedtime.
The second thing is to look objectively at the evidence. If you take the emotion out, can you see it differently? Is there anything you have control over that you can change? Is there evidence to the contrary? Sure, gluten free bread is more expensive than wheat bread, and sometimes it’s not so easy to find, and it might not taste the same. But I have found that I can make bread in my bread maker that tastes better than most “regular” bread, and is WAY cheaper. I have control over that.
Recognizing and acknowledging our negative thoughts, then weighing the evidence without emotion, and finding what we can control, can go a long way to helping us reframe our thoughts about our lives.
Know that you aren’t alone. Support groups like the Gluten Intolerance Group, and Generation GF for kids, help us find our tribe, those people who understand how we feel and can help us navigate. Most importantly, know that you aren’t alone, and there are lots of people out there willing to help you through. And willing to share GREAT recipes.
If you find yourself getting too upset, you feel stuck, helpless, or hopeless to reach out to a mental health professional who can give you more support. It’s ok to ask for help. We are stronger together.
Dr. Deena Abbe is a licensed psychologist with a PhD in Clinical and School Psychology, trained as a cognitive-behavioral therapist, who works with infants, children, adolescents, adults, and their families.